Bronze is such an important metal to the history of humankind, there’s an entire age named after it.
Civilizations were built thanks to bronze.
But this metal’s power certainly does not come from its magnetism.
Even with the most powerful magnet in the world, bronze is not magnetic at all.
So why does this metal matter…and how did it help to shape humankind’s entire future?
Does it matter that bronze isn’t magnetic and can you make it magnetic using the oldest magic of all: science?
Is Bronze Magnetic? (EXPLAINED)
What Is Bronze?
Bronze is a brownish metal that actually looks quite a bit like copper and brass, which are also brownish metals.
Once you know how to identify bronze, you will be able to tell it apart from other, similar metals.
Bronze is a somewhat dark brown shade, particularly when compared to copper and brass, and has less of a sheen than both.
Bronze is only somewhat mildly reflective.
Bronze has another important quality to it: this is not a naturally-occurring metal.
Many people do not realize that bronze is actually an alloy, which means that it is formed by melting two other types of metal ore together.
When copper and tin are melted together, bronze is created.
It seems amazing to think that ancient people living as far back as 5,000 years ago learned the art of creating this alloy.
It was thanks to bronze that all ancient civilizations were built.
This alloy is highly resistant to water damage, which is why it was so highly prized by the ancients and why it continues to be in use to this day.
In the ancient world, it was used for everything from weapons and armor to art.
It’s a highly durable material as well.
Bronze cannot be cut easily and when struck, it will not produce a spark.
The most commonly-used composition to make bronze is 88 percent copper and 12 percent tin.
Bronze does not rust but it does form a patina.
Over time, bronze will develop a handsome finish.
This can be polished away if you like the look of bronze without the patina.
The natural patina of bronze is brown, black, red or greenish-blue.
Why Does Magnetism Matter?
Magnets have an electromagnetic force.
This means they produce a field that can attract or repel other objects.
It’s the motion of electrically charged particles that create magnetism.
The strength of the magnet depends on how fact those particles are moving and the force acting on the magnetic field.
Almost all materials actually display some magnetic properties, though some have much stronger magnetism than others.
Magnetic fields have both a north and a south pole, like the Earth itself.
The Earth is actually a giant magnet!
This is why a compass points north.
It’s attracted to the Earth’s natural magnetic field.
Opposite magnetic poles attract.
That means north will attract south, and vice versa.
Like poles repel each other.
This is why some magnets seem to push against each other when you hold them close to each other and others pull toward each other and stick together.
Why Isn’t Bronze Magnetic?
All items in the world, everything around you, are made up of atoms that have electrons.
The spinning and movement of electrons is what makes an item magnetic.
In many substances, the electrons spin in opposite directions.
This cancels out the magnetism and this is why bronze is not magnetic at all.
The electrons that make up bronze are spinning but they are spinning in opposite directions, which cancels the magnetic field entirely.
In items that are highly magnetized, the electrons are spinning in the same direction.
This is how electrons behave in natural metals, including nickel, iron and cobalt.
This is why these metals are very highly magnetic.
However, even items with fast-spinning electrons that are spinning in one direction are not magnets.
They are magnetic, which means that magnets will be highly attracted to them.
However, they are not magnetized until another magnetic substance enters the magnetic field.
Does Bronze Need to Be Magnetic?
Bronze has almost no magnetism whatsoever, which means that no magnet will be attracted to it.
Even the most powerful magnets are not drawn to bronze.
This is actually an extremely useful property when testing for bronze.
Brass, which looks similar and which is also made as an alloy using copper, is highly magnetic.
This makes it very easy to quickly determine the difference between the two metals without carrying out complicated tests.
This can be very useful for archaeologists who are seeking out Bronze Age artifacts and other artifacts from the ancient world.
Iron, which was widely used in the later ancient world, is extremely magnetic.
Metals that have been buried underground or underwater for centuries are hard to identify on sight alone.
A piece of metal covered with dirt or ocean barnacles could be anything from gold to iron to bronze.
One quick and easy way to potentially date a piece of metal is to pull out a magnet.
If the magnet sticks, it’s more likely the archaeologist has found a piece of iron.
There are much more sophisticated ways to test metal, of course, but the magnet trick is a very easy one to use while in the field.
Being Attracted to Bronze
People have been making bronze for thousands and thousands of years to make all sorts of items.
It’s been found to have a wide variety of uses.
The fact that bronze is resistant to water and fairly durable has made bronze a real superstar among metal alloys.
The fact that it’s not magnetic can be a big asset because it won’t attract and stick to other metals that are more highly magnetized.
Bronze may not be a magnetic metal but it is certainly an attractive and very practical one!
Want to learn more about magnetic properties of common substances?