Navigating the Depths: Stainless Steel vs. Brass Pressure Gauges in Marine Applications


In this article, we look at stainless steel vs brass pressure gauges, which both have advantages and disadvantages. The progression and advancements in this technology has been tremendous since GNW was founded over 40 years ago. However, the importance of accurate pressure gauges remains the same!

Stainless Steel: The Maritime Maverick:

The history of pressure gauges dates back to the 17th century when Evangelista Torricelli invented the mercury barometer in 1643, marking a crucial milestone in pressure measurement. Over the centuries, pressure gauges evolved with advances in technology and material sciences.

Stainless steel itself was developed in the early 20th century. Harry Brearley, a British metallurgist, is often credited with discovering stainless steel in 1913. Adding chromium to steel resulted in a corrosion-resistant material with various industrial applications.

Invention of Stainless Steel Pressure Gauges

The specific invention of stainless steel pressure gauges is not attributed to a single individual but rather emerged as part of the ongoing innovation in materials and instrumentation. As industries, including maritime applications, demanded more durable and corrosion-resistant materials, stainless steel became a preferred choice for pressure gauge construction.

Advancements and Applications

Using stainless steel in pressure gauges brought several advantages, particularly in corrosive environments such as marine applications. Stainless steel pressure gauges resist rust and corrosion, making them well-suited for prolonged exposure to saltwater and harsh conditions.

Today, stainless steel pressure gauges are widely used in marine, industrial, and scientific applications where durability and resistance to corrosion are critical.

While specific inventors may not be credited with creating stainless steel pressure gauges, the development and adoption of this technology represent the collaborative efforts of materials scientists, engineers, and manufacturers over time.
What are the advantages of stainless steel pressure gauges in marine applications?

Stainless steel pressure gauges offer several advantages that make them well-suited for marine applications. Here are some key benefits:

Corrosion Resistance:

Stainless steel is inherently resistant to corrosion, making it ideal for marine environments where exposure to saltwater is a constant challenge. This corrosion resistance ensures the longevity and reliability of the pressure gauge, even in harsh maritime conditions.


Stainless steel is a robust and durable material. It can withstand mechanical stress, vibrations, and impacts commonly encountered in marine operations. This durability ensures the pressure gauge maintains accurate readings and functionality over an extended period.

Temperature Resistance:

Marine environments often involve fluctuating temperatures, and stainless steel pressure gauges can handle various temperature variations without compromising their structural integrity or accuracy.

Chemical Resistance:

In addition to resisting corrosion from saltwater, stainless steel is resistant to various chemicals found in marine environments. This resistance makes stainless steel pressure gauges suitable for applications where exposure to different substances is likely.

Hygienic Properties:

Stainless steel has hygienic properties, making it easy to clean and maintain. This is advantageous in marine settings where cleanliness is crucial, such as on ships, offshore platforms, or research vessels.

Aesthetic Appeal:

Stainless steel pressure gauges often have a polished and sleek appearance, contributing to the overall aesthetic appeal of marine equipment. This can be particularly important for vessels where functionality and visual appeal are considered.

Low Maintenance Requirements:

Stainless steel requires minimal maintenance compared to other materials. The reduced need for upkeep is beneficial in marine applications where regular maintenance may be challenging or costly.

Compatibility with Seawater:

Seawater is corrosive, and stainless steel’s resistance to corrosion ensures that the pressure gauge remains effective and accurate even when exposed to seawater.

Adaptability to Diverse Applications:

Stainless steel pressure gauges can be designed to meet specific requirements, making them adaptable to various marine applications, including navigation, offshore drilling, shipbuilding, and research vessels.

Longevity and Cost-Effectiveness:

The combination of corrosion resistance, durability, and low maintenance requirements contributes to the longevity of stainless steel pressure gauges. While the initial cost may be higher than some alternatives, the long-term cost-effectiveness makes them a preferred choice for many marine applications.

What are the disadvantages of stainless steel pressure gauges in marine applications?

While stainless steel pressure gauges offer numerous advantages for marine applications, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider:


Stainless steel pressure gauges can be more expensive than gauges made from other materials. The initial investment cost may be higher, which could be a consideration, especially for budget-conscious projects.


Stainless steel is denser than some other materials used for pressure gauges. This increased density can result in a heavier gauge, which might concern applications where weight is a critical factor, such as in certain types of marine vessels.

Magnetic Properties:

While stainless steel is not highly magnetic, it does have some magnetic properties. This characteristic may be a disadvantage in applications where magnetism could interfere with equipment or measurements.

Potential for Galvanic Corrosion:

In certain situations, especially when stainless steel comes into contact with dissimilar metals, there is a risk of galvanic corrosion. Marine environments, with their mix of metals and exposure to saltwater, can sometimes create conditions conducive to galvanic corrosion.

Limited Resistance to Certain Acids:

While stainless steel is generally resistant to corrosion, it may not be impervious to all types of acids found in marine environments. Specific acids, especially those resulting from pollution or industrial processes, could affect stainless steel over time.

Scratching and Surface Damage:

The polished surface of stainless steel can be susceptible to scratching or surface damage, especially in environments with abrasive materials. While this may not impact the functionality of the gauge, it can affect its aesthetic appeal.

Complex Manufacturing and Repair:

The manufacturing and repair of stainless steel pressure gauges can be more complex than those made from specific materials. This complexity may result in higher repair costs or longer downtime if maintenance is required.

GNW have over 40 years of experience in the service and repair of pressure gauge calibration, and the complexity of service and repair is a small price for the benefits of stainless steel pressure gauges

Specific Alloy Considerations:

There are various types of stainless steel alloys, each with its properties. The selection of the appropriate alloy is crucial, and using the wrong type for a specific application could lead to issues such as reduced corrosion resistance.

While these disadvantages should be considered, it’s essential to note that many of them can be mitigated with proper material selection, regular maintenance, and adherence to best practices in marine engineering. The overall suitability of stainless steel pressure gauges in marine applications will depend on the specific requirements and conditions of the intended use.

Brass Pressure Guages: Tradition and Resilience:

Brass has a long history of use in maritime applications, including constructing pressure gauges.

The concept of pressure measurement dates back centuries, with the invention of the mercury barometer by Evangelista Torricelli in 1643 being a significant milestone. Over time, the development of pressure gauges involved advancements in materials, including the use of brass.

Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, has been used for centuries in maritime settings due to its unique properties. Its corrosion resistance, malleability, and ability to withstand seawater made it a preferred material for marine instruments, including pressure gauges.

What are the advantages of brass pressure gauges?

Brass pressure gauges offer several advantages, making them popular in various applications. Here are some key benefits:

Corrosion Resistance:

Brass has inherent corrosion resistance, making brass pressure gauges suitable for environments exposed to moisture and corrosive elements. This is particularly beneficial in marine and industrial settings where corrosion resistance is crucial for the instrument’s longevity.

Malleability and Formability:

Brass is a malleable material, allowing for easy shaping and forming during manufacturing. This property enables intricate designs and customisation of pressure gauges to meet specific requirements.


The durability of brass contributes to the longevity and robustness of pressure gauges. Brass pressure gauges can withstand mechanical stress, vibrations, and impacts, making them reliable in various operational conditions.

Tradition and Aesthetics:

Brass has a timeless and classic appearance that is often associated with tradition. The warm, golden colour of brass adds an aesthetic appeal to pressure gauges, making them suitable for applications where visual aesthetics are valued.

Dezincification Resistance:

Brass alloys used in pressure gauges are typically formulated to resist dezincification, a form of corrosion that can occur in brass when exposed to specific environments. This enhances the corrosion resistance of brass pressure gauges.

Ease of Machining:

Brass is known for its machinability, allowing for efficient manufacturing processes. This property is advantageous for producing pressure gauges with precision and consistency.


Brass is generally more cost-effective than other pressure gauge materials, such as stainless steel. This makes brass pressure gauges an economical choice without compromising on performance.


Brass pressure gauges are versatile and find applications in various industries, including marine, automotive, and industrial settings. Their adaptability to different environments and conditions contributes to their widespread use.

Electrical Conductivity:

Brass is a good conductor of electricity, which can be advantageous in specific applications where electrical conductivity is considered, such as in industrial processes.


Brass is a recyclable material that aligns with sustainability goals. The recyclability of brass pressure gauges makes them environmentally friendly, contributing to responsible manufacturing practices.

In summary, the advantages of brass pressure gauges include corrosion resistance, durability, versatility, and a classic aesthetic appeal. These characteristics make brass pressure gauges reliable and cost-effective for various applications across different industries.

What are the disadvantages of brass pressure gauges?

While brass pressure gauges offer several advantages, it’s important to consider potential disadvantages as well. Here are some factors to be aware of:

Limited Resistance to Certain Acids:

Brass may not resist all acids, especially those in certain industrial or chemical environments. Exposure to specific acids can lead to corrosion, limiting the suitability of brass pressure gauges in particular applications.

Potential for Dezincification:

Despite efforts to formulate brass alloys to resist dezincification, this corrosion can still occur under certain conditions. Dezincification may compromise the structural integrity of the brass alloy over time.


Brass is denser than some alternative materials, such as aluminium. This increased density can result in heavier pressure gauges. In applications where weight is a critical factor, the weight of brass pressure gauges may be a disadvantage.

Cost in Comparison to Some Alternatives:

While brass is generally cost-effective, it may be more expensive than certain materials like aluminium. The initial cost of brass pressure gauges could be a consideration in projects with tight budget constraints.

Potential for Scratching and Surface Damage:

The polished surface of brass is susceptible to scratching and surface damage, especially in environments with abrasive materials. While this may not impact the functionality of the gauge, it can affect its aesthetic appeal.

Limited Resistance to Seawater:

While brass is corrosion-resistant, prolonged exposure to seawater can still affect its performance. In marine applications, particularly those involving constant exposure to saltwater, regular maintenance may be required to mitigate potential issues.

Magnetic Properties:

Brass has some magnetic properties, although it is not highly magnetic. This characteristic may be a consideration in applications where magnetism could interfere with equipment or measurements.

Complex Manufacturing and Repair:

Manufacturing and repairing brass pressure gauges can be more complex than gauges made from certain other materials. This complexity may result in higher repair costs or longer downtime if maintenance is required.

Adaptability to Extreme Temperatures:

While brass can withstand various temperatures, extreme conditions may impact its performance. Alternative materials may be more suitable in applications where pressure gauges are exposed to extremely high or low temperatures.

Specific Alloy Considerations:

The performance of brass pressure gauges can vary based on the specific alloy used. Selecting the appropriate brass alloy for the intended application is crucial to ensure optimal corrosion resistance and durability.

It’s essential to weigh these disadvantages against the specific requirements of the intended application and consider alternative materials based on the environmental conditions and operational demands.


In marine applications, the choice between stainless steel and brass pressure gauges hinges on carefully considering advantages and disadvantages. Please visit our store to see the range of pressure gauge products we have. We also offer pressure and vacuum calibration gauge calibration services.