If you have purchased an older home featuring brass-like fixtures and fittings or discovered what looks like antique brass curtains rods, you may be wondering whether your find is authentic brass.
Historically, people made candlesticks, lamps, vases, beds, horse brasses, musical instruments, and more from brass. Identifying genuine brass can be challenging for several reasons, as sometimes brass is lacquered to prevent tarnishing or painted to ‘modernise’ its look. How you store brass can also affect its appearance dramatically.
We can help. Let’s look further into how you can identify antique brass.
First up, is your item solid brass?
Often, much older items are made from solid brass. However, it is also common to find pieces that are brass plated or wrapped with a thin patina of brass. Use a household magnet to see if your item is solid brass. Hold it against the item, and you feel a pull, or it sticks to the side; it’s a good sign the item is brass-plated, as the underlying metal is typically iron or steel – both magnetic. If the magnet falls off, or there is no ‘pull,’ assume the item is solid brass.
What are the typical features of antique brass?
Colour: expect to see significant variation in the colour of antique brass items. This colour variation is because brass is an alloy typically made of zinc and copper, with no defined quantities of each metal. Brass with more copper in its composition tends to be redder, while brass comprised more of zinc is yellower. In some cases, like marine hardware or screws, the brass alloy contains tin to help prevent corrosion.
Tarnish: tarnish is the buildup of residue on the brass’s surface. As brass comprises zinc and copper, it tends to tarnish or oxidise. Tarnish is often mottled, featuring red, black, brown, and gray spots. Tarnishing is typical for antique brass and can be removed with a good quality brass cleaner.
Lacquer: to prevent them from tarnishing, some brass items are lacquered. Over time this lacquer wears away or flakes off. If your antique brass item has a lacquered brass finish, it may wear unevenly. Older lacquered pieces often show patches of dullness or even small cracks or crazing. You can remove the lacquer if you like, but some people like the look of lacquered antique brass.
Check for Maker’s Marks: thoroughly check your brass item to search for a Maker’s Mark. This mark shows the piece is authentic antique brass and identifies where and when they made it. Check on the bottom or back of your brass antiques – they may appear as a collection of numbers, letters, or symbols.
Brass Décor – Modern Antique Brass Finishes
Please explore the full range in our Nedlands showroom at 169 Stirling Highway, browse our product catalogues online, or call us on (08) 9386 6057 to find out what’s in stock to suit your period home.