Man has made use of copper, brass and bronze for over 4,000 years – much more recently in the 16th and 17th centuries brazen wares accounted for three quarters of all household cooking objects. The rich warm colours of copper and brass coupled with its durability and heat resistance are no doubt the reasons for its popularity.
Copper is a naturally occurring metal. Brass is an alloy of copper with zinc whilst bronze is an alloy of copper and tin (although other metals may also be sometimes found in small quantities). Unlike pewter, there is very little debate on how brass and copper should look – a brightly burnished shine is preferred by virtually everyone Old bronze should have a deep, dark green or rich brown patina.
Most collectors prefer bronze in this aged state and great care should be taken with any cleaning. Sand blasting or “bead” cleaning can irrecoverably damage the bronze. The seasoned coloring also helps to date a bronze piece.
Whilst there are many bronze household items, the majority of bronze wares are statues or figures. Many masterpieces have been cast in bronze and great artists like Degas, Picasso, Rodin and Matisse worked in bronze – It is certainly the chosen material of great men.
Small bronze sculptures have been popular as interior ornaments for hundreds of years. They vary immensely in price, depending on their condition, age, size and theme. An Art Deco bronze figure could cost anything from £100 upwards. Bronze figures cast by Rodin cost a little more!
Old copper and brass household objects are still very common. Everything from nutcrackers to fire tools to cigar cutters to jelly moulds were cast or cut and copper brass kettles were made by thousand. All are worthwhile collecting.