Choice of Metal for Custom Awards: Bronze vs Pewter
When our customers embark on a custom award project, they have a variety of options to consider, including the overall design of the award, size of the award, and the type of material the award will be created from. We work with a broad set of materials for these custom awards, including crystal, glass, steel, wood, pewter and bronze. For cast sculpture awards, in almost all cases the material choice comes down to bronze versus pewter.
Both materials can be the basis for stunningly beautiful and creative recognition awards. However, there are important differences that can influence the decision as to the right material to use for a specific sculpture award.
Both metals are primarily composed of copper and tin. The ratio of these two components in each metal is different, however, and this creates significant differences in the metals themselves. Bronze is primarily copper alloyed with small amount of tin. Pewter, on the other hand, 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.
One implication of this is that the temperature required to melt each metal is significantly different. Bronze typically melts at approximately 2,200 degrees, while pewter only requires 500 degrees to liquefy. This variance in melting temperature changes the way sculptures created from each metal are cast. As outlined in our article on the recognition award production process, 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. Wax is poured into the rubber mold, the wax is then dipped in a slurry to create a ceramic shell, the wax is then melted out of the ceramic shell (“lost wax” process), and then the molten bronzed is poured in the resulting cavity of the ceramic shell.
These extra steps in the casting process are one of the reasons bronze awards are more expensive than pewter awards. So, the budget you have can certainly influence the best choice of metal for your custom award project.
Durability is another distinction that results from the properties of these metals. As 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 may be the best choice. If not, pewter would offer sufficient durability in the vast majority of cases.
Design can also dictate the preferred choice of metal. As a harder metal that can be “finished” (grinded and buffed) to a greater degree, bronze may be a better choice for sculpture award designs that feature hard, sharp edges and precise geometric shapes. Pewter, as a softer metal, may be a better choice for designs that are “softer” and more fluid and organic in nature.
The size of a custom award may also dictate the proper choice of metal. For very large achievement awards, bronze is a better material to use. Larger singular bronze castings can be created, and, for really large awards that must be case in multiple pieces then reassembled, bronze is an easier material to weld back together and finish with no degradation to the original design.
Color and Finish
Finally, both metals lend themselves to different colors and finishes. The natural color of cast pewter is a lustrous silvery grey. 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.
We're here to help!
When you begin a custom award project, one of our project managers can help you determine the best choice of material for your specific needs. Give us a call, we're always here to help.