Brass vs. Gold: What’s the Difference?

The yellow color, glittering polished luster, and corrosion resistance are qualities shared by gold and brass. But is gold the same thing as brass? How do you tell that your metal is brass and not gold? What’s the difference between gold jewelry and brass?

Gold is a pure dense valuable metal that is neither magnetic nor reactive, while brass is an alloy of iron and copper that’s magnetic and oxidizes when exposed to strong acids.

While both gold and brass have a yellow color and don’t react easily, they are pretty distinct. In this post, you’ll find a comprehensive brass vs. gold analysis that saves you from falling for fool’s gold!

Brass vs. Gold Comparison

Differences Brass Gold
Density 8.4 to 8.73g/cm3 19.32g/cm3
Color and appearance Yellow Glittering yellow
Melting point 900 to 940°C 1,064.43°C
Chemical composition An alloy of copper and zinc Pure Gold metal (Au,79),

Or, in alloys (purity karats)

Reaction with substances Not readily reactive, but oxidizes with concentrated acids Unreactive, unaffected by acids in its pure form,
Magnetism Ferrous, attracted to magnets Non-magnetic
Malleability Malleable Soft and malleable
Price About $5 per kilo, or ten cents an ounce About $56,756 per kilo, or $1,782.10 an ounce (Check Live Gold Price)
Applications Making trumpets, knobs, locks, and bearings due to its hardness and low friction impact Currency, jewelry

 

Brass Vs. Gold

Although gold and brass both have a distinct yellow metallic luster, they are quite different in their chemical or physical and application characteristics. For instance, gold is a pure metal, but brass is a combination or alloy of zinc and copper.

If you want to check if a coin or metal is gold or brass, use the acid test; a drop of acid readily reacts with brass but does nothing to gold. But that’s not the only difference between these two metals.

Here is a comprehensive analysis of brass vs. gold.

Gold Meaning

Gold Meaning
Something Borrowed

Gold occurs naturally as a pure chemical element that has a shiny yellow luster. In nature, gold is found ingrained in nuggets, quartz rocks, and natural deposits.

The soft, dense, and malleable metal does not react to chemicals and has a distinct characteristic.

Since 6500BC, humans use gold is in jewelry and coins. According to archaeologists, our ancestors used gold as early as 40,000 BC during the late stone age. Today, gold is a measure of wealth and a medium of currency all around the world.

What is Brass?

What is Brass
Something Borrowed

You get brass as an alloy of zinc and copper. Any variance in the amount of zinc or copper in the brass brings various properties to the brass. For example, when copper is the main component, the brass looks dark. But when zinc is high, the brass is shiny and yellow.

Discovered in 500 BC by the Hittites and Sumerians, the yellow-colored alloy is harder than copper and more precious than zinc. In most cases, brass is a jeweler and sculpturist’s friend due to its close likeness to gold.

The presence of copper in the alloy gives it antimicrobial and germicidal properties. In short, the alloy fights bacteria and other pathogens by destroying their structural membranes.

Musical instrumentalists also have a soft spot for brass due to its acoustic properties. So it’s commonly used for making trumpets, trombones, horns, and tuba connects.

Brass Vs. Gold: Physical Differences

Brass Vs. Gold Physical Differences
Something Borrowed

Gold and brass have the same color, and it may be difficult telling them apart. If you don’t have experience with rare metals, you could get confused. However, by looking at the two metals’ physical properties, you will realize that they are quite different.

Color and appearance

First, brass and gold are yellow. However, while brass is dull and does not have the glittering yellow color, gold is shinier than some glass varieties.

The shiny metallic luster of gold fades away with impurity content. Ornaments shine depending on the purity of the gold. If the gold has less than 12 karats will be difficult to tell it apart from brass.

Softness and Malleability

Gold is incredibly soft, and if you scratch it on a ceramic surface, you could draw a golden line. However, brass is hard and will not leave a yellow mark on any surface. Instead, pressing the alloy onto the ceramic surface leaves behind a black streak.

Also, gold is more malleable than brass. Of course, you will find lots of bronze and brass statues because the two materials tend to last longer than iron.

Gold, on the other hand, forms shapes easily in its pure form. Therefore, most smiths and sculpturists prefer low karat gold as it is harder.

Magnetism

Determining whether your piece of metal is gold or brass is easy if you have a magnet. Brass has iron in it which means it will attract loadstone. On the other hand, gold is pure and cannot move an inch even under the spell of the strongest magnet.

Density

The quickest way to tell the difference between brass and gold is their weight. Basically, gold has a density of up to 19.3 grams per CM3, while brass lags with 8.4 g CM3. So a bar of gold would be more than two bars of brass.

Electric Conductivity

Metals conduct electricity, but; alloys tend to have lower conductivity than pure elements. Brass, for instance, has a conductivity of 28% copper, while gold’s conductivity is about 70% copper.

Chemical Differences of Brass and Gold

Chemical Differences of Brass and Gold
Something Borrowed

The surest way to test whether a metal is a gold or brass is to analyze it in the laboratory. Gold and brass may have similar physical traits, but their chemical compositions are different.

While gold is a pure metallic chemical element with the symbol Au 79 in the periodic table, brass is a mixture or alloy of copper and zinc. So brass shows the chemical properties of both copper and zinc while gold remains intact unless alloyed with other metals.

Acid test

The acid test is a popular colloquial expression, and it makes sense in determining metals. The test works on the principle that gold is unreactive and brass reacts with strong acids.

If you pour a drop of concentrated nitric acid on a bar of brass, it suddenly starts forming nitrous compounds with both zinc and copper. Zinc is highly reactive and will therefore form zinc nitrate—copper, on the other hand, oxidizes in concentrated solid acids.

The acid doesn’t work on pure gold because the metal is technically inert. So, if you drop acid onto your metal and see any discoloration or bubbling, then that brass. But if there’s no chance you are holding pure gold!

Rusting

Try looking for tarnished areas or an area or part of the metal that’s discolored. The discoloration is a result of oxidation and rusting. Metals rust or tarnish when they react with oxygen from the environment to form a compound. Under optimum conditions, brass tarnishes after reacting with the environment. Pure gold will have no oxidized parts.

Smell and taste

Brass has a distinct smell and taste that leaves an odor even on your hand. For instance, if you touch brass and then smell your hand, you will notice the metallic scent. Also, the alloy has a taste and smell, primarily due to the copper and zinc elements present in it.

Gold is a dense tasteless and odorless metal. The corrosion-resistant yellow metal will not form any compound with your saliva or sweat. And indeed, it will leave neither smell nor taste on you.

In fact, some people use gold as a food additive E175. However, it’s neither harms them nor adds any nutritional value because it is biochemically inert.

Other Gold Vs. Brass Differences

If you are in a hurry and don’t have time for Somephysics and chemistry, you can do the following tests on your metal to tell whether it’s brass or gold.

See the marker

Gold comes with a hallmark that tells its purity and origin. Brass doesn’t have a karat count, but most manufacturers will place “brass” on it.

The Prices

GoLd is expensive, while brass goes for just a couple of dollars. So, you can tell the difference by simply asking for the price. For example, a 1kg gold ingot goes for more than $55000, but an equal amount of brass goes for just about $5.

If someone is selling genuine jewelry to you for a lower price, that’s not gold.

Purity rating

Gold comes with a purity rating or character count. Pure gold has a purity rating of 24 karats. The number of karats indicates the parts of gold in an alloy. But brass is zinc mixed with copper and has no gold in it.

Clean with vinegar

Vinegar is a popular way to clean jewelry and other metals. The ascetic acid that comes from corn alcohol can tell you whether you have pure gold or false gold. If you put your piece of jewelry into a glass of vinegar, fool’s gold changes color while real gold shines brightly.

Winding Up: Which is the Best: Brass or Gold?

Not all metals that glitter are gold. But, telling the difference between brass and gold is not the easiest of tasks. Right now, you could be wearing a brass ring that you’ve always thought is gold. Analyzing the physical and chemical properties of your ornament will verify its genuinty.

Leave a Comment