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Etched Bronze

Naturally there are other tribute options available in the marketplace. I am more than happy to mention them to you along with their Web addresses so you can review them for yourself. Due to copyright restrictions I cannot offer sample photos of their work, but photos are available on their Web sites.

Matthews published the following via a press release. “October 3, 2005: Lasting Memories™. Matthews International Corporation is introducing Lasting Memories™ a new line of cast bronze memorials that offers unmatched personalization with the durability only cast bronze affords…Matthews perfected a process that combines the art of casting with the use of photography to reproduce finely-detailed photo images on cast bronze memorials.” This is similar to what's offered by Innovative Signs. I invite you to visit the Matthew's Web site and look closely at their enlargements of some Lasting Memories™ plaques.

One thing I want you to note in their statement - “...durability only cast bronze affords.” Bronze is a very good and durable metal, but 316L stainless steel (see Galvanic Corrosion Table) is lower on the corrosion table, and titanium is even lower. In addition, bronze will oxidize causing a darkening of the piece’s patina. There's more about oxidation on the Titanium page. The following question from a gentleman writing highlights this point.

“June 13, 2004 - I am also looking for a product or a method which will allow me to clean and restore two bronze grave markers of the type given by the VA to veterans. One has been on the ground for 27 years, the other only 18 months, but is still deteriorating or dulling. Walter Moe - bronze grave markers - El Dorado Hills, CA, US”

The point here being that bronze will oxidize and must have protection. Bronze sculptures, for instance, must be waxed fairly frequently (twice a year) to retard the natural oxidation darkening.

Oxidixed BronzeThis from Wikipedia:

“Typically, bronze only oxidizes superficially; once a copper oxide (eventually becoming copper carbonate) layer is formed, the underlying metal is protected from further corrosion. However, if copper chlorides are formed, a corrosion-mode called "bronze disease" will eventually completely destroy it.”

Innovative Signs produces what they call “Engraved Bronze using a Photo Relief image”. Their work looks good. We can achieve much finer detail however on stainless steel or titanium, but we cannot produce a relief. Recently they introduced full color images on engraved plaques. I wrote and asked if these were suitable for continuous outdoor exposure. Here is their response. "Thank you for your inquiry. The color on the engraved plaques are guaranteed for 15 years." We later found out they use a dye sublimation process. I won't go into technical details, but photos using this process fade. The process would be especially vulnerable outdoors in direct UV.

I'm not familiar with Matthew’s pricing structure, but Innovative Signs has a price guide. Let me use the tribute I did for my mother that appears on the opening page. Her tribute has quite a few letters. If I got that same tribute produced in bronze using recessed lettering it would cost me $2,727.90 from Innovative Signs. That cost is based on the price guideline found on their Web site. Why the high cost? The lettering. There’s a $2.00 charge for each 'recessed' character. They said the smallest character they could reproduce was about 1/8" which equates to 13 pt. Times New Roman. We've imaged 4 pt type and can go smaller. That's not really practical, but we can do it. If Matthews has a similar cost guideline then you probably don’t want to say much about your loved one on a bronze plaque. We will do all the lettering you can fit on one Immortal Memories™ tribute- no per character charges.

Many manufacturers we've reviewed do etch bronze. Plaques&Letters distributes products by Matthews Bronze and Gemini. Following are two quoted paragraphs from their Web site.

Gemini Signs & Letters

“The etching process allows you to replicate your photograph, line drawing or complex artwork. This method utilizes a halftone dot pattern made from a 50-line screen. Halftone portraits resemble newspaper photographs, and have visible dot patterns. The recessed dots are black infilled to contrast with the satin finished metal background.”

Matthews Bronze

"Cast Bronze Plaque Etched Portraits Appliqués:

This process utilizes a halftone dot pattern acid-etched on .100" thick bronze plate. The etched, recessed dots are infilled with black to contrast with the satin-finished background. The best photographs for etched portraits have high contrast tones with bright white areas, dense black areas, and minimal gray tones.

You read that both companies etch the bronze then fill the voids with black. The black is a pigment. Black usually doesn't fade if its carbon based, but down the road that pigment will release from the surface. Maintenance becomes a valid issue. Matthews uses a patented coating called Diamond Shield®. The name might lead you to believe something you shouldn't. It's clever marketing, but the coating, as we were told by an industry insider, is lacquer based. We go over the uses of lacquer on our Coatings page. Another company prefers a baked on coating. We've worked with them all. That coating is probably a powder coat. Technologists at Dupont told us, as did our applicator, that all the powder based clear coats had a tendency to yellow after a few years exposure to direct UV. They are organic based, so their life expectancy is comparable to other clear coats. These would be very good for an indoor application.

Resolution is another issue. Gemini says they use a 50 line screen, about what they use on silk screen T-shirts. Newspapers use an 85 line screen. Magazines use 133- 150 line screens. There is a big difference. Please read our Image Resolution page. The density of the image also makes a difference. On their Web site Matthews recommends 72 - 300 dpi images. We've experimented with 300 dpi images. They work well, but we use 1,200 dpi. They work better! The line screen is the key element. We use 133 lpi screens.

To stay away from having to use pigments to produce contrast we developed a different technique. It is very time consuming. In fact, preparing and etching bronze is more difficult than etching titanium.

Please don’t get me wrong. I think Matthews, Gemini, and Innovative Signs do beautiful work in their selected media. Our work uses different techniques.

James DennisOf course there is an option you might consider if you really do like the bronze look. You can incorporate an Immortal Memories™ Tribute in a bronze plaque. That way you can get a high resolution photograph along with a lot of text for a much more reasonable price. The metals can be placed together based on the Galvanic Compatibility chart.

At left is a computer generated rendition of a bronze plaque fitted with an Immortal Memories™ tribute. The piece in the rendition is one I did for my father. I scanned his photo from a very old picture. It was an 8” x 10” black and white taken back in 1947 showing him standing next to his car at a gas station. His head was very small in relation to the overall picture, so I had to interpolate it electronically up to a usable size. It actually came out extremely well if you could see the actual piece.

My mother’s photo, front cover, was also extremely old, but it was a full head shot. No interpolation was needed, so the photo came out very well. I would like to mention that photographs of these pieces do not do them justice.

Should you like a bronze/Immortal Memories™ Tribute combination I'm sure we can help get that accomplished. Just get in touch using our contact form.

Cristine YansonThe photo at right is my grandmother’s flush bronze memorial. I did a small tribute with her photo and text and installed it on January 27, 2006. The look is subtle and unobtrusive. Now instead of the few words on the bronze one can get some understanding of the person who lived on this earth from 1900 - 1981. A picture is worth a thousand words can never have more meaning unless you can add some meaningful words to that picture. I hope in some small way I have given my grandmother an element of immortality.

Cristine Yanson


A bronze commemorative would probably not look that good in a home. They are too monument oriented. You could always commission a bronze sculpture, bust, or bas-relief. Roman emperors did that quite often. The cost would be quite high, and unless you had the right type of display venue, it would look a little out of place. But it is an option.

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