Both bronze and pewter are primarily composed of copper and tin. However, the ratio of these two components in each metal is different and this creates significant differences in the finals metals themselves. Bronze is primarily copper alloyed with small amount of tin, while pewter is primarily tin alloyed with a small amount of copper. These ratios mean that bronze is a heavier, denser metal, while pewter is a lighter, softer metal. The weight may not seem like a big deal, but it can have a significant impact on your final award design.
For starters, the temperature required to melt each metal is significantly different because of that weight difference and the chemical makeup. Bronze typically melts at approximately 2,200 degrees, while pewter only needs to reach 500 degrees to liquefy. NASA uses tiles on their spaceships to protect them as they reenter Earth’s atmosphere that are cool to touch at 2,200 degrees. Meanwhile, 500 degrees is the optimal burger cooking temperature. This variance in melting temperature changes the way sculptures created from each metal are cast. Pewter can be poured directly into the rubber mold that was formed around the original model. Bronze, on the other hand, has to go through a few more steps in its casting process. Because of the extra steps in the casting process bronze awards are typically more expensive than pewter awards. Custom designed awards are cast by hand, not by a machine, and a more complicated casting process means more man-hours and more skilled hands needed to produce the finished piece.
Since it is a harder metal, bronze tends to be more durable than pewter. If a recognition award is going to be exposed to a lot of “wear and tear”, bronze is probably a better choice. For instance, the Mid-America Classic perpetual award is a traveling trophy. Each year, the victorious team will get to keep the trophy at their school for the remainder of the year, until the following year’s football game. Since a new trophy is not created each year this one award has to be able to stand up to the wear-and-tear of being carted back and forth between two schools. Since this award spends most of its time in a display case it was designed in pewter, but an award that is more likely to be exposed to the elements and a lot of hands would be best cast in bronze.
As a harder metal, bronze can be “finished” (grinded and buffed) to a greater degree, making it a better choice for award designs that feature hard, sharp edges and precise geometric shapes. Pewter is a better choice for designs that are “softer” and more fluid and organic in nature and don’t require as much buffing to get those sharp lines perfect.
Since bronze is an easier material to weld back together and finish with no degradation to the original design bronze is a better material to use for larger award designs or designs that may involve multiple pieces. For instance, the Star VI memorial sculpture we created is constructed of bronze with an antique patina finish.
Both metals lend themselves to different colors and finishes. The natural color of cast pewter is a lustrous silvery grey while the natural color of cast bronze is a coppery brown. Pewter can be painted or plated in a variety of metals, most often silver or gold, or finished to its natural brushed pewter color. Bronze can be polished until it is shiny and gold in color, or colored via patina, which can create a broad spectrum of colors and patterns.
When you are designing a custom award for your event or organization it’s imperative you pick the kind of metal that is going to really make your award shine.