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Posted on
15 May 2014

What is an Antique Brass Finish?

Many people ask us at Memory Lane, How do you do your Antique Brass finish? Now that is a company secret that we have formulated after many years in the business but I can tell you that it is not a painted finish as many people think. In the 1980s many people replaced many of the original fittings from their period homes, be they Victorian, Edwardian, Federation, Californian Bungalow or Art Deco house with the new reproduction brass products copied from originals. These fittings were bright and shiny and brightened up many old places. Unfortunately after a period of time the brass started to deteriate and began to develop spots. Most people assumed that they were rusting but the truth is that the clear lacquer that had been coated onto the fittings after they had been polished was starting to break down. This is usually caused by ultraviolet light or moisture that attacks the clear lacquer. The moisture in the atmosphere then begins to ozidise the brass that it comes into contact with in the "pin Holes" that have opened up in the lacquer. Gradually the moisture seeps under the lacquer changing the colour of the bright brass and causing the lacqueur to breakdown completely. Eventually there is very little lacquer left and the piece is mostly and an "Antique Brass" colour. This finish is similar to what we try to achieve.

Through our secret Antique Brass formulation we are able to speed this aging process up so as to achieve a lovely mellow finish in a fraction of the time. Then to maintain that finish we lacquer over the top but because we have already aged the brass, even if the lacquer breaks down (and the lacquer formulations are much better than they were in the 1980s), it does not affect the brass in the same way as it has a coating of oxide over it. Most of the antique brass light fittings supplied by Memory Lane are hand finished in our onsite workshop by our skilled workers.

As a basic explanation of an Antique Brass finish you need to understand brass. Brass is a combination of copper and zinc and some other minor elements. The formulation of brass varies depending on the use of the brass. It can be cast into shapes, spun into rounded shapes or drawn into tubes of various sizes, thickness and hardness. For each process the percentage of copper and zinc is different and consequently the way each type has to be treated is different when it comes to an antique brass finish. An antique brass finish is an oxidisation of the brass and requires different formulations for each type of brass.

The beauty of an antique brass finish is that it is not bright but mellow and as such it will blend with many other items in a room. When decorating most people will try to achieve a room where all the items will blend with each other. If you have light fittings in bright finishes, then in many cases they will be the first things seen upon entry to the room, yet in most cases their is a lot more spent on things like furnishings, drapes and floors. A fitting in an Antique Brass finish will add to a room without attracting the eye straight away. This is why we reccommend an antique brass finish to people who are decorating in a period style.