Almost All About Brass


The Virginia Shopper has been on the prowl again – this time in search of how to buy, use and care for an old favorite – Brass.  It has been around since Cave men (and Women) Days.  I wasn’t there but I’ve heard through the millennium grape vine that some Cave Person accidentally melted copper and calamine together and came up with a fabulous metal. The Romans used it to make coins, decorate armor and in jewelry.  American Colonists also knew its value and beauty.  I’ve heard that brass is enjoying a huge comeback now, but The Shopper still had lingering questions.

George Washington’s famous Key to the Bastille available at Virginia Born and Bred.  

–          Question:  Isn’t Brass going out of style for use in home décor

Answer:  Far from going out of style, Brass objects are more popular than ever!  The Shopper found an enormous array of brass gifts and decorator items in shops across Virginia and even around the world. Why?  Brass objects of art make perfect accents to add elegance to home décor.

Williamsburg  trivets and other reproductions such as candlesticks, bookends and fireplace tools remain especially popular.  The Thomas Jefferson Trivet is an example of a functional piece designed by the man, himself, using his initials, and is an accurate replica of his original design. The trivet is revered as a functional object of beauty and given as a gift of history for holidays, weddings, birthdays, and other special occasions.  In short, it’s gorgeous and useful too.

–          Question:  How Can I Tell if it’s Really Brass?

Answer: Hold a magnet (even a refrigerator magnet) to the object.  If the magnet sticks then it is not solid brass but is just steel or zinc which has been electroplated.  This coating is thin and can easily break down and tarnish.  Brass can be found in a mirror finish, satin or brushed, antique, bronze or verdigris.   To end confusion, if you’re shopping for antique brass or newly designed brass objects, bring your magnet along with you!

–          Question:  Can Tarnish Destroy the Value of Brass Objects?

Answer:  Brass, like other metals, can accumulate grime and discoloration with time, and may lose its original color.  But just because your brass trivet looks tarnished doesn’t mean it will lose value or that it has to be cleaned!  Tarnish can be seen as a desirable patina highly prized by collectors.  In fact, removing tarnish, in some cases, can reduce the value of an antique brass object since it can be damaged by using abrasives.  If you have a valuable piece, don’t clean it!  If you feel it must be cleaned, get it done professionally. If you are not concerned about antique value and you really want to see your brass sparkle, there are methods to try and many good products on the market.

  Washington & Lee Brass Trivet

–          Question:  Isn ’t Cleaning Brass Too Hard and Too Time Consuming?

Answer:  In this world of fast food, fast dishwashers, and the need to get everything done FAST, cleaning brass may be the lowest item on your priority list.  But give this a second thought.

Try putting brass objects in a pan of ketchup, just enough to cover.  Ketchup?  Yep!  The theory is there’s something about the acidity in tomatoes that works like a charm.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until your pieces glow.  Then polish.

They say a half and half solution of white vinegar and salt will work wonders too.  Soak your pieces for awhile in the solution and then use a brush, rags and elbow grease to rub clean.  If your brass is just dirty, 409 might work and someone even recommended using hot sauce in a plastic container (don’t use a metal container though).  Cover the objects with the solution – and just wait.  No elbow grease required.

Conclusion:  Brass is the Comeback Kid of the metal industry.  It’s as good today for gifts and home décor as it was for the Cave People who accidentally invented it.

Recommendation:  Buy Brass!


This entry was posted in Brass, Christmas, Graduation Gifts, Home Decor, Special Occasions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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