Antique Bell Identification
Tagged: Antique Bell
December 8, 2016 at 1:52 am #25022LacsmanParticipant
Greetings! I’m from the Philippines and new to this forum I hope someone can help me with my concern. I have an antique bell (I don’t know whether it’s brass or bronze) that I have inherited from my grandfather. He said that his cousin gave it to him back in the 80’s and said that it came from an old stone chapel that was torn down sometime in the 60’s. The bell looks very old and has “battle scars” on it probably of it’s long use. I wish to know what era it came from and an estimate of how old it the bell is, and what it’s worth. I don’t see any date or maker marks on it. I have attached photos for reference and I hope someone can share his/her thoughts regarding the bell.
- This topic was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by Lacsman.
December 9, 2016 at 4:10 pm #25024GarryParticipant
Very Nice Bell Lacsman!
Welcome to the site.
You ask a few questions, I’d like to see if I can help you out here.
1) Brass or Bronze? I am about 70% sure it’s a type of bronze, the most typical material used in this type of bell. Brass is an alloy of Copper and Zinc, it looks gold in color and is typically found in things like musical instruments (hence the ‘brass’ section of an orchestra!) Bronze, is an alloy of Copper and Tin, it looks reddish brown in color.
As Bronze has tin, if there is enough of it, a rare earth magnet (like you get inside of old computer hard drives) will stick slightly to it. (remember it’s only about 30% tin!) Further, if you look very closely, you may see rings on the surface – that’s a feature of bronze.
Brass will polish up to a more golden color. Also, if there’s a section you can test that’s out of the way, try putting a drop or two of ordinary household vinegar on a lightly cleaned spot. zinc tends to fizz in vinegar!
Let me know the results of your magnet and your vinegar tests. There are a couple detractors to the ‘bronze’ argument though, that you should be aware of.
1) brass is a softer metal than bronze and the ‘handle’ shows wear from a rope or wire where it was hung from (the marks go up rather than to the side so it’s possible it was hung by ropes rather than from a bar in the middle then swung by ropes pulling to the side. Is there any sign of wear in the center hole where a bar might have gone? It’s a wear pattern more prone to softer brass though, unless there was something grinding against it there (unlikely).
2) I don’t see a lot of wear from where the clapper would be striking the inside of the bell in your photos. Maybe it’s not showing up or perhaps it just wasn’t rung much. (also a reason I’d like a photo of the clapper- to see the wear pattern on it!) Test the clapper separately from the bell (magnet) as they were often made of different material.
3) The Philippines were a contested area in WWII as we all know. Brass and Bronze were an ‘in demand’ commodity (shells for bullets!) so a lot of those items (statuary, bells etc) were seized to be melted down for ammunition casings. This made brass/bronze mixtures outside of the ‘normal’ proportions of copper and zinc/tin. After the war, much of this material left about (empty shell casings etc) was recycled into other products like bells. That makes the identification very hard to do. Your bell appears to have some of those characteristics (a reddish rust color) that I have seen on other bells of that construction, and looks to be locally manufactured/poured. The age you describe indicates that this might be a very real possibility. The only way to tell that is through metallurgy (lab tests).
4) I see though, a damaged portion of the bell skirt where a piece is chipped off. Brass is a softer metal and tends to deform (bends or dents) where as bronze tends to crack or chip. So if it’s a brass bronze amalgam of some sort, it’s probably more closer to bronze than brass.
This is just so you know! (and now you see it’s a more complex question than you might have thought!) But I’d feel comfortable with an age from about 1950’s ish and possibly earlier.
Any chance of getting a shot of the clapper and it’s attachment? your tape covers it in the photo. The clapper and attachment can sometimes give hints as to the age.
We can’t give you a price or value as it really needs to be looked at in person for details that simply aren’t obtainable via the internet. Wear marks, patches, machining, pour marks, metal tests etc. need to be done for accuracy. Further, the value differs according to a lot of local conditions. Something worth $X here in Canada might only be worth $Y in England due to rarity, interest etc. So we can only suggest looking at various online auction sites etc. to get an idea of what they may be selling for.
also, Try and get as much history of the bell written down as you can. It adds to the value! Which chapel for example? Where/how it came through the family (various owners) etc. It provides a history and continuity that helps in the future!
Well I hope this does help you a bit with your quest!
Keep us updated on what you find!
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