By molding red metals, artists and designers create unique sculptures, jewelry—even furniture
Artists can let their creativity flow with red metal alloys, such as Brass and Bronze. Bronze, especially, has been used in artistic applications for thousands of years, and many well-known sculptors, among them Donatello, Rodan, and Giacometti, have worked with these materials. Harry Bertoia, a twentieth-century designer, experimented with metals in furniture, jewelry, and sculpture applications. One of Bertoia’s works is a collection of sound sculptures, dubbed Sonambient Sculptures, that are made of Beryllium Copper, Bronze, and Brass rods that sway when touched, creating a variety of tones.
When choosing a Copper-based alloy for a project, sculptors or jewelry makers consider its color, castability, and, if the finished work is going to be exposed to the elements, its corrosion resistance. For certain sculptors, red metals’ patina is a desirable quality—part of the Statue of Liberty’s charm is its green color, a result of the Copper oxidizing over the years. Because a patina takes time to develop, artists often choose to speed up the process by treating the surface of their works with chemicals and other substances.
Unlike sculptures made of stone, which are created by chipping away parts of the material to form a shape, metal sculptures are cast, which means the material is melted and poured into a mold. Certain groups of alloys are engineered for easy casting. Belmont Metals, based in Brooklyn, New York, is a major producer of quality nonferrous alloys, including Copper-based materials suitable for sculpture, jewelry, and other decorative applications. Because of its experience, the company can customize its products to meet specific needs, as well as create new alloys—if necessary. Among other alloys, Belmont Metals stocks Everdur Silicon Bronze, Art Caster’s Brass, Special H Silicon Bronze, Beryllium Copper, Jewelers’ Manganese Bronze, and White Bronze.
These alloys illustrate the specialized characteristics needed for different types of sculpture and jewelry designs. Art Caster’s Brass provides users with the bright golden color of regular brass along with the enhanced characteristics of cleaner melting, less fume, and better fluidity for easy casting. Everdur Silicon Bronze can be used for various types of castings that will require long-term corrosion resistance. Jewelers’ Manganese Bronze is a proprietary alloy developed to provide jewelry casters with a base metal that can be centrifugal cast into refractory molds. Beryllium Copper’s fluidity allows it to easily conform to molds, and White Bronze is a proprietary Belmont alloy that was developed with a low melting point and white color.
Each sculpture or jewelry project comes with its own set of challenges. For these specialty applications, it’s important to work with an experienced manufacturer. Belmont Metals, for instance, has an in-house laboratory, in addition to the knowledge and confidence needed to experiment with production techniques. For example, the company’s Special OAF Treatment can create antimonial lead casting alloys that are more fluid and flexible, all while requiring reduced casting temperatures. As a result, casters can obtain more detail when casting at the same temperature or choose to work at reduced temperatures without sacrificing fluidity. Because of these types of innovations and techniques, artists who are looking for an alloy that can achieve fine details and textures, as well as meet budgetary and other requirements, should consider Copper-based alloys.