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Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (such as aluminium, manganese, nickel or zinc) and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsenic, phosphorus or silicon. These additions produce a range of alloys that may be harder than copper alone, or have other useful properties, such as stiffness, ductility, or machinability.

The archeological period in which bronze was the hardest metal in widespread use is known as the Bronze Age. The beginning of the Bronze Age in India and western Eurasia is conventionally dated to the mid-4th millennium BC, and to the early 2nd millennium BC in China;[1] elsewhere it gradually spread across regions. The Bronze Age was followed by the Iron Age starting from about 1300 BC and reaching most of Eurasia by about 500 BC, although bronze continued to be much more widely used than it is in modern times.

Because historical pieces were often made of brasses (copper and zinc) and bronzes with different compositions, modern museum and scholarly descriptions of older objects increasingly use the generalized term "copper alloy" instead.[2]

Before it became possible to produce glass with acceptably flat surfaces, bronze was a standard material for mirrors. The reflecting surface was typically made slightly convex so that the whole face could be seen in a small mirror. Bronze was used for

Before it became possible to produce glass with acceptably flat surfaces, bronze was a standard material for mirrors. The reflecting surface was typically made slightly convex so that the whole face could be seen in a small mirror. Bronze was used for this purpose in many parts of the world, probably based on independent discoveries.

Bronze mirrors survive from the Egyptian Middle Kingdom (2040–1750 BC). In Europe, the Etruscans were making bronze mirrors in the sixth century BC, and Greek and Roman

Bronze mirrors survive from the Egyptian Middle Kingdom (2040–1750 BC). In Europe, the Etruscans were making bronze mirrors in the sixth century BC, and Greek and Roman mirrors followed the same pattern. Although other materials such as speculum metal had come into use, bronze mirrors were still being made in Japan in the eighteenth century AD.

Bronze is the preferred metal for bells in the form of a high tin bronze alloy known colloquially as bell metal, which is about 23% tin.

Nearly all professional cymbals are made from bronze, which gives a desirable balance of durability and timbre. Several types of bronze are used, commonly B20 bronze, which is roughly 20% tin, 80% copper, with traces of silver, or the tougher B8 bronze made from 8% tin and 92% copper. As the tin content in a bell or cymbal rises, the timbre drops.[29]

Bronze is also used for the windings of steel and nylon strings of various stringed instruments such as the double bass, piano, harpsichord, and guitar. Bronze strings are commonly reserved on pianoforte for the lower pitch tones, as they possess a superior sustain quality to that of high-tensile steel.[30]

Bronzes of various metallurgical properties are widely used in struck idiophones around the world, notably bells, singing bowls, gongs, cymbals, and other idiophones from Asia. Examples include Tibetan singing bowls, temple bells of many sizes and shapes, gongs, Javanese gamelan, and other bro

Nearly all professional cymbals are made from bronze, which gives a desirable balance of durability and timbre. Several types of bronze are used, commonly B20 bronze, which is roughly 20% tin, 80% copper, with traces of silver, or the tougher B8 bronze made from 8% tin and 92% copper. As the tin content in a bell or cymbal rises, the timbre drops.[29]

Bronze is also used for the windings of steel and nylon strings of various stringed instruments such as the double bass, piano, harpsichord, and guitar. Bronze strings are commonly reserved on pianoforte for the lower pitch tones, as they possess a superior sustain quality to that of high-tensile steel.[30]

Bronzes of various metallurgical properties are widely used in struck idiophones around the world, notably bells, singing bowls, gongs, cymbals, and other idiophones from Asia. Examples include Tibetan singing bowls, temple bells of many sizes and shapes, gongs, Javanese gamelan, and other bronze musical instruments. The earliest bronze archeological finds in Indonesia date from 1–2 BC, including flat plates probably suspended and struck by a wooden or bone mallet.[30][31] Ancient bronze drums from Thailand and Vietnam date back 2,000 years. Bronze bells from Thailand and Cambodia date back to 3,600 BC.

Some companies are now making saxophones from phosphor bronze (3.5 to 10% tin and up to 1% phosphorus content).[32] Bell bronze/B20 is used to make the tone rings of many professional model banjos.[33] The tone ring is a heavy (usually 3 lbs.) folded or arched metal ring attached to a thick wood rim, over which a skin, or most often, a plastic membrane (or head) is stretched – it is the bell bronze that gives the banjo a crisp powerful lower register and clear bell-like treble register.[citation needed]

Bronze has also been used in coins; most “copper” coins are actually bronze, with about 4 percent tin and 1 percent zinc.[34]

As with coins, bronze has been used in the manufacture of various types of medals for centuries, and are known in contemporary times for being awarded for third place in sporting competitions and other events. The later usage was in part attributed to the choices of gold, silver and bronze to represent the first three medals for centuries, and are known in contemporary times for being awarded for third place in sporting competitions and other events. The later usage was in part attributed to the choices of gold, silver and bronze to represent the first three Ages of Man in Greek mythology: the Golden Age, when men lived among the gods; the Silver age, where youth lasted a hundred years; and the Bronze Age, the era of heroes, and was first adopted at the 1904 Summer Olympics. At the 1896 event, silver was awarded to winners and bronze to runners-up, while at 1900 other prizes were given rather than medals.