Chandeliers are one of the best ways to make a statement in a room. They bring a touch of elegance and beauty to any setting.
With the right design and materials, they can be used for many different purposes.
Brass is a popular choice for both antique and modern chandeliers, as it offers a timeless design and durable construction.
But, how do you know if that dusty chandelier you found stashed away in your Grandmother’s attic is made of brass?
In this article, we are going to fill you in on all things brass.
From what it is, how it came to be, and, most importantly, where it fits into the opulent world of chandeliers.
A Brief History Of Brass
Brass, an alloy of copper with zinc, has been used for thousands of years because of its hardness and its ability to be worked into useful objects.
Calamine brass was first produced during the Neolithic period. It was probably made by reducing mixtures of zinc and copper ores.
The word brass was once used to refer to bronze, the alloy of tin and copper. In the Middle Ages, brass was widely used for weapons, armor, and jewelry.
The armor of a knight in the Middle Ages consisted of plate armor made of metal such as copper, tin, or bronze, and sometimes plated with gold or silver.
In the 14th century, brass became a popular material for decorative elements on furniture, including candlesticks, candleholders, and tableware.
As with other metals, brass began to lose favor in the 16th century due to its expense.
By that time, iron had become the most common material for making household goods.
However, one ornamental light fixture stood the test of time, keeping to its brass roots and that is the chandelier.
A sign of opulence, chandeliers have continued to be constructed out of high-quality brass from their first inception in the early 1800s up until today.
Today, brass is used for many purposes. For example, it is used in plumbing fixtures, electrical wiring devices, and automobile parts.
Brass also makes up the majority of the components in kitchen appliances, such as cooktops, ovens, refrigerators, and dishwashers.
Types Of Brass
- Copper-zinc (CZ) – This type of brass is most commonly found in hardware stores. It’s a combination of copper and zinc. CZ is soft and easy to work with, but it doesn’t hold polish well.
- Hardened copper (HCP)– HCP is harder than CZ and will hold a polish better. However, it’s less flexible and tends to crack easily. It’s best suited for small projects.
- Antique brass (AB) – AB is a mixture of copper and zinc. It’s similar to CZ, except it’s softer and easier to work with. It’s usually sold as a powder.
- Bronze (B) – B is an alloy of copper and tin. It’s very hard and brittle. It’s best suited to heavy-duty applications.
- Copper (Cu) – Cu is pure copper. It’s the hardest and strongest of all types of brass.
- Gold plating (GP) – GP is a thin layer of gold applied to brass. It’s often used to give brass a shiny appearance.
- Silver plating (SP) – SP is a thin layer of silver applied to brass. It gives brass a bright white color.
- Nickel plating (NP) – NP is a thin layer of nickel applied to brass. It adds strength and corrosion resistance.
Common Uses For Brass
Brass has an attractive aesthetic value making it a popular choice for ornamental purposes. It has a color ranging from light gold and silver to almost red.
Mirror frames, fancy vases, lamps, and works of art are all commonly constructed of brass for its visually striking appeal.
From shell casings to everyday use bearings and gear, brass is widely used in mechanical applications.
With less need to sharpen them, brass tools are super durable and known to last a long time.
If you’re a musician then you would already be well aware of the use of brass in many types of instruments.
Trumpets, trombones, saxophones, brass can be found in all of the big hitters of the music industry.
How To Tell If A Chandelier Is Brass?
If you see an item with a shiny, reflective surface, but not one with a textured surface, then it’s likely made out of brass.
You can also use this test on your own home products:
Take a small amount of white vinegar and rub it over the surface of the product
If it disappears into the surface, then it’s most likely made out of brass; otherwise, it might be made out of another metal.
Generally, it will depend on how much light hits the chandelier. A lot of times when people think they have a brass chandelier, they actually have a chrome one.
Chrome will shine through more than a brass one.
The Magnetic Test
One easy way to tell if a chandelier is made of brass is to see whether it is magnetic or not. Brass is usually plated onto iron, steel, nickel, or aluminum.
If you want to know whether a light fixture is made out of solid brass or has a thin layer of brass plating on it, here are some tests you can perform.
Brass isn’t attracted to magnets, but if iron or steel are coated with brass, they will be attracted to magnets.
Likewise, if nickel is coated with brass, it will be attracted to magnets too.
Brass has no attraction for magnets, but nickel shows a strong affinity towards them.
Aluminum and zinc are not attracted by magnets so they don’t share the same properties as other metals.
Instead, they’re attracted by another property called malleability. If you need to test your chandelier for magnetism, you can use this simple test:
- Hold a piece of paper near the chandelier.
- If the paper gets attracted to the chandelier, then it probably contains iron or steel.
- If the paper does not get attracted to the chandelier.
- If the paper gets repelled by the chandelier, it may contain nickel or copper., then it probably contains brass.
- If the paper gets pulled away from the chandelier, the chandelier probably contains aluminum.
The Sound Test
Brass and brass-plated zinc can be distinguished by the difference in their sounds when struck.
Since brass is an amalgam of zinc and copper, which makes it heavier than pure zinc.
When struck with a spoon or coin made of brass, the brass produces a heavier tone than when struck with a spoon or a coin made of zinc.
The Scratch Test
The scratch test could be considered the “last resort” for obvious reasons.
Luckily, you only need to scratch a small inconspicuous section of the chandelier to know whether it is brass or not.
Maybe the cruel hand of time has already scratched the chandelier for you, and you only have to observe its color, or maybe you’ll have to do the dirty work yourself.
If the chandelier is scratched and you can observe a yellow shine within, then this is likely brass.
If, however, you observe white scratches, then this is a telling sign that the chandelier is not brass, and is most likely an inferior metal, with a zinc plating at best.
How To Identify Brass Plated Zinc
Brass plating on zinc is usually done by applying a thin layer of brass over the surface of zinc sheeting. It is also called “brassy” zinc.
The process involves melting the zinc in order to apply the brass. After that, the zinc is cooled down and hardened.
It is used widely in electrical wiring due to its durability and resistance to corrosion.
How To Give Your Brass Chandelier New Life?
To give your old chandelier a fresh new look, consider these tips:
Clean The Chandelier
Clean your chandelier using warm soapy water. Make sure that all parts of the fixture are clean, including the frame, glass, hardware, and base.
Polish The Chandelier
Use a soft cloth to polish the entire chandelier. Use a polishing pad to buff away dull spots. Wipe down the fixture after each cleaning session.
Restore The Chandelier
Replace missing pieces, repair cracked or broken parts, and replace worn-out hardware.
Paint The Chandelier
Paint the entire chandelier with a clear coat. Do not paint the glass itself.
Install New Hardware
Install new hardware onto the chandelier. Choose hardware that matches the style of the rest of the decor.
Add Lighting Accessories
Add some lighting accessories to the chandelier. For example, add a dimmer switch to control the brightness of the lights.
So there you have it.
Whether you’re looking to purchase a new brass chandelier, restore an old one, or go on an antique store hunt looking for your living room’s newest bedazzled addition.
At least you now know which chandeliers are imitations or the real brassy deal.