Living with Living Finishes: Their Care and Appeal

The look and feel of all brass hardware will change over time, whether it is exterior hardware that faces the elements of nature, or interior hardware that is constantly touched and handled. And while we have several recommendations for maintaining your hardware, some finishes explicitly embrace the weathering process.

Natural brass, polished unlacquered brass, German silver, and oil rubbed bronze are all living finishes, intended to transform with age and use. Yet they may also be restored to their near-original state if desired.


The Versa lever in natural brass, designed by Mig Perkins


Natural brass is typically sand-cast and unpolished to elicit an organic, textured feel. Over time it will darken, making the texture even more apparent. Polished unlacquered brass will become richer and more golden in color with exposure to air and touch. It will lose some of its mirror reflective polish and develop a patina that is equally appealing. However, to restore the polished look, simply use a tarnish remover (we recommend the brand Flitz) and a microfiber cloth. Both natural and polished brass are solid brass completely through, and will not lose its coloration like other, plated finishes may.


FDP019KH in polished unlacquered brass

Sample casting of German silver


German silver gets its name from its high nickel content, which lends the alloy a silver color. It does not contain any silver metal, however. Unlike nickel-plated brass, the color runs through the entire alloy and will not be rubbed off due to exposure to the elements. It ages in a similar fashion as natural brass, darkening over time, and may be maintained in the same way.

Oil rubbed bronze is so named because of the coloration of the finish, not the metal content. It is achieved by oxidizing the brass until it achieves a deep brown-black, bronze tone, and then neutralizing the oxidation process with water. Next it is coated with oil to attain a dark luster. Over time and use, the oil coating and patina layer will wear away to reveal hints of the brass underneath. It has an especially complex and layered look that pairs well with traditional and country-style décor. Periodic waxing will maintain the original look for longer and slow the wearing process.


HK003 in oil rubbed bronze


Embracing the weathering and aging process in your hardware lends a sophisticated touch to the home. Due to the environment, climate, and use patterns, the hardware takes on a truly individual look.