Safety of brass, copper, bronze for a teapot


I’m trying to find out if it’s safe to use copper, brass or bronze to
make a teapot. I’ve read some articles that say it’s safe and others
that say there can be either arsenic or lead that can leach out over
time. Does anybody know which is true? Thanks for your input.


I'm trying to find out if it's safe to use copper, brass or bronze
to make a teapot. I've read some articles that say it's safe and
others that say there can be either arsenic or lead that can leach
out over time. Does anybody know which is true? Thanks for your

A large number of commercial brass and bronze alloys contain lead,
no so many with arsenic. Typical brass alloy that is sold for
jewelry and other craft uses is C260 also known as cartridge brass.
It contains up to 0.07 % lead way beyond what is allowed in
children’s toys and other regulated uses.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

A large number of commercial brass and bronze alloys contain lead,
no so many with arsenic. Typical brass alloy that is sold for
jewelry and other craft uses is C260 also known as cartridge
brass. It contains up to 0.07 % lead way beyond what is allowed in
children's toys and other regulated uses. 

So do you think bronze would be a better option, 90/10 mind.
Considering that tin is a safer metal than lead or zinc, as it’s not
retained by the body.

Regards Charles A.

Sandra, I wouldn’t use copper unless I had it tinned. Reacts with
the acid in tea.

Anyone else?

I spent my undergrad years making spoons, and my entire graduate
thesis was spoons and flatware. I found through the years of making
and designing flatware, nickel silver was the most durable. Brass and
bronze were also good metals to use for spoons, but copper stunk. In
the copper spoons I made, I had to make them extra thick, and do a
final planishingafter I was done making and cleaning up the copper.
In the 20 years I devoted my energies to flatware, I found that the
public wanted silver-plated flatware, not sterling, so I had to make
almosteverything out of brass, some bronze and nickel, and send that
out to be silver-plated. I now have my flatware rhodium-plated,
because the average customer is too lazy to bother to clean
silver-plate or sterling utensils. Apparently tarnish is a big no-no,
just not acceptable. Duh!Metal will tarnish but our society is so
conditioned to maintenance-free objects, that the good old silver is
just unacceptable. I’ve bitched constantly about our society’s fickle
taste. I basically stopped making flatware for several years and just
came back to it last fall. If you are going to have a spoon class,
use brass or bronze, unless you are going to have your students
hot-forge 1/2" bar stock, I would avoid copper. It is great for
demo-ing, but crap for spoons. Use nickel if you can, for it really
does hold up. You can always offer your class to send out the spoons
made in class to be silver-plated by Red Sky Corporation. Copper is
also a heat hog, and you really have to crank up theheat to get the
copper hot enough to get solder to flow, and by then, you have
annealed your copper, so it would have to be planished to get enough

When it comes to baby spoons, I always used sterling, for it has
antibacterial and antibiotics properties, and babies that were fed
with a silver spoon were healthier. I routinely cut myself all the
time in my bench working, and never had a serious infection on my
hands or elsewhere. I think it was working so much with silver that
kept me healthier. I don’t get that sick often, thanksfully. Even my
flatware that I use to eat, is a mixture of Victorian silverplated
flatware and modern stainlesssteel, plus a few of my own sterling
spoons mixed in.

I love spoons, I appreciate their functions, but I always take the
metalinto consideration when I’m designing spoons, for it has to be
sturdy enough to hold up to daily use. It is fun to watch people eat,
for it shows how they handle their flatware.

Joy, known as the Spoon Lady

Some brasses and bronzes have lead in the alloy to help them machine
more easily, but not all do.

Copper, theoretically, should be only copper, but 100% purity isn’t
achievable at the prices craftspeople would pay. You can get 99.99%
pure copper at a premium of about 50% over regular 99.9% copper. But
anyway, copper used for food preparation is almost invariably tinned
inside. There were a couple of posts on this the other day.

BTW, do you mean teapot or kettle? I’d use copper for a kettle, but
never for a teapot. A teapot should be made of something that holds
head better. Even for a kettle it should be tinned inside.

Sandra- The issue is not lead or arsenic unless you lead solder it
together. Most lead solder theses days has no lead in it. Now it’s
mostly tin. Arsenic in copper? Nah.

The issue is copper sulfate poisoning. That is why most pots are

Just do a Wikipedia search for copper poisoning. Mostly the issue is
acidic foods in copper.

That said I use a copper tea kettle every day to boil my coffee
water, but the inside of it is plated.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

Hello Sandra,

first, all those metals you mentioned have been used by humans since.
the bronze age. but that doesn’t mean they were safe!.In many
countries brasses are still used for trays, coffee brewing, tea,
etc. and copper cookware is prized for certain things- like
confectionery- so it depends what you are going to put in the vessel
as much as the metal you make it from and solder (if any is necessary

  • cold connections being preferable in say, riveting a handle that
    may contact a liquid inside, to the piece) Things to consider:

Copper items you make for cooking should be lined with a lab grade
tin- if you don’t have it applied only things that are non-acidic can
go inside safely and that is to cook in the vessel not to store
anything. Older copper wares had some arsenic or lead- so it is no
longer legal to manufacture non-lined articles for the international
market, and using them should be done cautiously with only
confectionery in mind if that is your only choice- generally copper
items are too thin to be useful for the high temps required but for
quick processes like caramelising they are brilliant.

If you want to make a serving tray, use a pure copper sheet, don’t
try alloying with tin (as in brass or bronze better to buy it)
Jeweler’s bronze - also called Merlin’s gold (Alloy 320) 85 copper
/15 Zinc composition that has a colour like high karat gold but is an
alloy of copper and zinc and contains nolead, and has a high copper
content- but is also reactive. You shouldn’t use it unless strictly
for water based beverages like teas, tissanes, infusions, etc, Not to
store any of them in as the tannic acid in typical black teas will
taste off once it reacts with the zinc in the alloy. The tannins are
rather oily and coat almost any metal if allowed to build up (that’s
why coffee at many food service establishments tastes awful! and tea
dispensed from large aluminium urns with a lever type spigot are
equally terrible as workers may (if lucky) run the unit through the
dishwasher but rarely get all the tannins built up around the spigot
assembly (the intake and output) off as it takes handwork.

Yellow brass- (alloy 260) is a 80 copper / 20 Zn alloy and is harder
than copper or jeweller’s bronze,& contains no lead. But again the
same acids (tomato products, citrus, etc.) will cause leaching and
some times , discolouration on the interior. It is also true that
some distributors sheet has reclaimed copper in it and unless the
company offers a graded or certified grade of X then you have no way
of knowing if its all new metal, or a recycled product -particularly
when ordering from online auction sites.

All in all I would avoid the copper vessel for cooking idea entirely
if you aren’t familiar with the industrial grades and FDA regulations
(as well as a few other trade and manufacturing organisations
opinions or rules) and buying options. You can have vessels plated
with tin (lined is a truer description of the service as it’s a bit
denser and thicker of a coating- most plater’s that serve jeweler’s
don’t do this service as a rule) but it’s costly and DIY isn’t
recommended if you think you can do it yourself. one can, but
probably shouldn’t unless you have excellent insurance or provide a
disclaimer that it’s decorative and not intended for food uses. I
certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from making something they
want to try, but without some experience with cookery and metals, and
hollowware crafting in safe for food alloys I wouldn’t suggest
experimentation save fro the crafting of it. If you want to make a
food safe item use .999 silver ! Many people that are sensitive to
copper, nickel and alloys that contain either of the metals on their
skin will often feel an “unexplainable” gastro-intestinal related
problem after consuming foods, etc. made in copper, brass and bronze
vessels, so there’s another consideration. Leaching the main problem.
Non-food safe sheet metals second. Third, alloys and solder seams not
sealed with a food safe or clad with a high tech coating shouldn’t be
sold for uses that involve consumption.

one company i know of, but have zero affiliation with, that sells
their own “craft” metal sheets is something like whimsie, or house
of whimsie, don’t know off hand- but they sell non-lead jeweler’s
bronze and yellow brass that could be used for holloware but as sI
recall the largest sheets they sell are perhaps 16x16 and only in a
few gauges. sorry i don’t have more info. If you have questions feel
free to contact me off list. rer

Copper, theoretically, should be only copper, but 100% purity
isn't achievable at the prices craftspeople would pay. 

I pay $8 a kilo for granulated copper. CIA

(Alloy 320) 85 copper /15 Zinc composition that has a colour like
high karat gold but is an alloy of copper and zinc and contains
nolead, and has a high copper content- but is also reactive. 

You better read the specs on this alloy, it is listed to contain up
to .05% lead

Virtually all the commercially available brass and bronze alloys can
and usually do contain some small amount of lead. And this is not
just the machining type 300 series brasses although they do have a
significantly higher amount of lead in them.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

There are tinners in the USA. We use one in N. California. I know
there are tinners on the East coast too. There is an amazing amount
of tinned, commercial cookware still being used, made in the past. I
sent off a large mixing bowl for a commercial mixer from a restaurant
last year to a tine near Sacramento California. I have done some
tinning myself but for a large item, being used for food preparation,
I was far more comfortable sending it off to a “professional” dinner
for the job. Was BEAUTIFUL… not terribly expensive either.

john dach

Arsenic in copper? Nah

Not so true- some companies selling sheet metal to jeweler’s,
crafter’s etc. offer “recycled” sheet. Some is recycled from what
they term “vintage metals” that can be old copperware, monel,
spelter, gilded stuff, old bronzes - pretty much anything they buy.
One company fairly prominent in google ad words, and similar targeted
ads that appear in the panes on the side of pages in browsers like
firefox, chrome, opera etc. is " whimsie dot com" - they even
advertise the lead potential and have a number of disclaimers one
speaking to how green they are for recycling and in the next
breath/disclaimer how their product- the recycled copper, brass,
bronze, etc. metal sheet, wire, and the lot - should be used only for
craft and decorative uses because it could contain lead. So Don’t
totally dismiss it happening…

That’s simply ONE example of vendors selling alloys or more
accurately running melt-n-pour operations that buy cheap and re-
manufacture metal alloy mill stock and raw materials and add a
premium for it’s “greening” contributions to planetary health!!! They
also say not intended for food contact, not for use with food, or
consumables, etc. Nonetheless, one still risks buying a sheet of
copper, brass or bronze with a bit of arsenic in it. These sellers
certainly wouldn’t introduce the possibility if there were zero
danger of it being present in their products if it weren’t so…

It is Common. It Happens, Beware. rer

As I pack for our annual 1840’s historical reenactment camping trip,
the recent discussions on copper and tinned copper for safety come to
mind. I have two reproduction coffee pots - one made of tin, one of
tin lined copper. I thought that due to the better conductivity of
the copper, it wouldboil water more quickly - NOT! The tin pot is
considerably lighter in weight, which seems to make it conduct the
heat to the water inside much quicker than the heavier tin lined
copper pot.

Linda in central FL, where the weather is finally cool enough to
require a fire in our tipi

Hello all,

Thanks for all the great

What a wealth of

So if I sum up all the responses and my other research the answer is
make the teapot out of silver or have the inside tinned.

Does anybody know if a tinning company who will do very small
quantities that they could recommend.


I have some lovely copper cooking pots - wok etc. - made in Santa
Clara, Michoacan, Mexcio, which I cannot use. My joints react
strongly to the copper. The copper shop where the pots were made
said it was OK to cook in them as long as you use lime and salt to
keep them bright, but this isn’t enough for me. Does any one know of
a shop that does tinning in Mexico? I’d love to be able to use the
pots! Thanks.

Leslie Chapman

So how can I know what quality of nickel and brass I buy?



Here in the “middle,” between the East and West coasts, try the
National Ornamental Museum, in Memphis, TN. While tinning copper
isn’t done every day, there is a fair amount of tinning done during
the year, but most especially in early October at Repair Days, which
is an annual event. For more info, you can access them at

write them at 374 Metal Museum Drive, Memphis, TN 38106, or call them
at either 901-774-6380 or 1-877-881-2326.

Besides, it is a worthy organization which has shown or sold works
by several of you (us) !

I know of a great tinner in the U. S. You can find East Coast
Tinning here: East Coast Tinning

Jeff Herman