Bronze is one of the first metals known to man, dating back to around 2000 BC. Regulus was developed towards the end of the 19th century to imitate bronze, and was often nicknamed 'the poor man's bronze'.
Bronze and Regulus are two materials that people very often mix up. To an untrained eye, this fascinating 19th-century ‘art nouveau’ regulus sculpture entitled ‘Leda and the Swan’ can easily appear to be made of bronze.
It is however important to distinguish the two materials from each other, seeing that they are not of equal value or quality.
Here are some tips that will help you identify Bronze from Regulus.
The first and main difference between the two materials lies in their composition. Bronze is an alloy of copper and another metal, usually tin. Compositions vary, but modern bronze is typically 88% copper and 12% tin.
While bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, regulus is an alloy of lead, antimony, and sometimes tin.
Also called "the poor man's bronze", regulus is cheaper and much more fragile than bronze. Due to its low price, it was used to decorate vast bourgeois interiors.
Bronze is much heavier than regulus. However, the difference in weight cannot be a determining factor, as the regulus object may be made heavier with the help of 'lead' to deceive buyers.
Bronze items develop a patina as they age, which is not the case with regulus. The patina can be natural when it has been subjected to the action of time, or it can be applied cold or hot, with acids or oxides. It is used to reduce the defects of the cast iron and to embellish the bronze.
To give you an idea of what high-quality bronze that has passed the test of time looks like, check out this 19th century Bronze sculpture attributed to French sculptor Auguste Moreau (1834-1917) portraying a young boy with a basket of roses.
However, regulus can be painted to imitate the appearance of bronze. To unmask it, the object should be scraped to reveal a yellow reflection, which is the distinctive sign of bronze. This reflection is white for regulus.
Therefore, if the metal behind the patina is white, it is regulus, if it is yellow it is more likely bronze.
If you have a musical ear, you can also use sound to identify bronze. Bronze makes a high-pitched sound if you tap the sculpture, whereas regulus has a rather muted sound.
Regulus is sculptured at a low melting point, which makes it more challenging to shape. It is therefore difficult to engrave or chisel on regulus objects.
Bronze, on the other hand, can be worked with once the metal has hardened, which makes it easier to remove defects from the mold and to create finer details.
For instance, check out how detailed this fascinating bronze sculpture by Iraqi sculptor Monkith El Saaid, portraying a pyramid of chairs topped with a rooster is:
Gilded bronze was popular in France in the 18th and 19th century. The production of an art object in gilded bronze requires a lot of work and involves several hands and trades. Mercury gilding allows the metal foundation (bronze, copper or brass) to be gilded in order to reproduce the shine of a solid gold object, while guaranteeing additional resistance and of course a reduced cost.
For instance, this is a pair of 19th century Napoleon III chandeliers in mercury gilded bronze with four candles, mounted on a marble pedestal.
Today, bronze is used less and less, however, it is mainly being used in Art, as well as in the mechanical and electrical industries.
After reading this article, you are now all set to recognize the distinctions between real bronze and regulus.