Brass, Copper & Silver... Since 1975
Listed below are FAQ's regarding brass and its care. If you have a question not answered below, submit it to us via email. For a free price quote on brass restoration services, please include photos and a brief description with your inquiry. Or call (410) 686-7280.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, used and prized since ancient times for its beauty, resilience and durability. Color variations are the result of slightly different proportions of copper and zinc.
Brass can be cast, forged, spun, wrought or die-cut. It is used in our homes for fine hardware, lighting fixtures, fireplace equipment, candleholders and many other practical and decorative accessories. Brass can be finished in many different ways. These include a highly polished (mirror) finish; a satin or brushed finish; a soft (hand rubbed) finish; plus antique, bronze and verdigris finishes.
What is the difference between solid brass and brass plating ?
A piece is solid brass if the material is pure brass - whether it's the hollow tube of a chandelier arm, a sheet of brass wrapped around a steel post as in many antique beds, or a two pound candlestick. Solid brass can always be polished to its original beauty, although an old lacquer may need to be removed first.
Brass plated items are usually made of steel or white metal (zinc) to which molecules of brass are electroplated. A lacquer is usually applied to protect the plating. Brass plating is exceedingly thin and will deteriorate over a period of time. Brass plated pieces can sometimes be polished successfully (once the lacquer is carefully removed), but if the plating is deteriorated the piece will probably need to be replated.
First, test with a magnet - a refrigerator magnet will do. Solid brass is not magnetic. If the magnet sticks, the item is usually steel or cast iron, with a brass plating. If the magnet does not stick, you can test further by scratching a hidden area with a sharp tool. If you see a shiny yellow scratch, the item is likely solid brass. If you see a silvery scratch, your piece is likely white metal (zinc). Iron, steel, and white metal can all be replated, in which case a lacquer is always applied to protect the plating.
How can I tell the difference between solid brass and brass plating ?
Lacquer is a clear coating which protects and preserves the beauty of the brass by sealing it from the air which oxidizes (tarnishes) it. Lacquer does not affect the color of the brass, and it eliminates the need for polishing. Lacquer can always be removed, without damaging the brass, by using paint remover or lacquer thinner. The brass can then be repolished and relacquered.
At Brassworks, our custom lacquering process should keep your indoor pieces beautiful for 20 years or more. Lacquer on objects exposed to moisture (such as bathroom faucets) will not hold up as long. Similarly, the durability of lacquer on outdoor items varies widely depending on the location and how much direct and indirect weathering the piece is subject to. Remember, solid brass, whether kept in or out-of-doors, can always be repolished and relacquered, no matter how hopeless it may look.
How do I take care of lacquered brass and brass plating ?
Never try to polish a lacquered piece, no matter what the metal, because polishing will damage and cloud the lacquer. Lacquered items should be dusted and cleaned with a very soft cloth, which may be moistened.
Metal Refinishing, Repairs & Lamp Rewiring
How Long will lacquered brass last?
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