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Bronze Through the Ages

Bronze is one of the most popular metal alloys we use for casting sculpture recognition awards. Bronze is a metal alloy consisting, mainly, of copper (~88%) and tin (~12%). Bronze is sometimes confused with brass, which is a copper and zinc alloy. Bronze is a more durable and corrosion-resistant than brass, so is the preferred material for sculptures. Bronze is also one of the most prolific metal alloys in the history of mankind – in fact, an entire span of civilization is referred to as the “Bronze Age.” Since it is such an important alloy in past and present sculptures (including our awards), it is interesting to understand the role it has played throughout the centuries.

The earliest bronze artifacts date to the 5Th millennium BC, in Iran. However, this version of bronze was an alloy of copper and arsenic (called arsenic bronze). Arsenic bronze was gradually replaced by tin-alloy bronze, however, because the tin-alloy bronze was stronger, non-toxic, and easier to cast. The oldest tin-alloy bronze artifacts found date back to around 4,500 BC, in Serbia. Bronze also began to be used in the same millennium in Africa, the Middle East and China. One interesting theory is that bronze was originally “discovered” from copper- and tin-rich rocks being used to build campfire rings. When the rocks became hot, the metals in the rock melted and merged, creating bronze.

Due to its superiority in strength, durability, and ease of being able to be formed into many different shapes, bronze soon replaced stone as the material of choice for weapons and armor. This was the advent of the Bronze Age. There are three periods associated with the Bronze Age: the Early Bronze Age (3300-2100 BC), the Middle Bronze Age (2100-1550 BC) and the Last Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC). The first evidence of bronze being used for statues and figurines dates to the Early Bronze Age, around 2500 BC.

The Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age around 700 BC, as iron was a more abundant material, and easer to process into a form of usable metal. However, bronze continued to be used for applications that required its strength and durability, including some forms of tools, weapons, ship construction, and art.

Bronze, of course, is still used for many of these applications today. Its properties of strength and durability make it one of the more popular metals we use for our cast sculpture awards (both stock and custom). It is fascinating that this material, and the methodology for casting it, has changed very little over the last 6 millenniums, and this adds to the richness and personality of the bronze awards that we create.