how to tell if brass is real

Solid brass lighting is not just visually stunning, but it’s also incredibly versatile, and can work with a wide variety of different interior design styles. One of the best reasons for choosing solid brass for lighting is that it’s a particularly hard wearing and robust metal. This makes it particularly effective as outdoor lighting, especially in adverse weather and damp environments.

However, there are many products that are marketed as brass, when in fact they are brass plated. Plating a base metal such as copper or steel with brass is a much more cost-effective solution to crafting many metal objects, however they simply don’t stand the test of time. So, can you know for certain that your product is solid brass? There are a number of easy checks you can perform

Visual Inspection

The Chelsea Traditional Spot Light

The first place you might want to start is to look for a hallmark. For antique pieces, there may be a maker’s hallmark stamped somewhere on the bottom or sides of the item. However, legislation does not require brass to be hallmarked. Occasionally you will find “BRASS” stamped on the item, but this is not guaranteed nor required.

Real brass has a distinctive yellow gold tone. While brass and gold may appear similar at a quick glance, if your item is a brighter yellow in tone, this hints at gold plating as opposed to brass.

Over time, brass can develop a green or brown patina. This is caused by oxidisation and is a common sign of aging in real brass. This can easily be buffed out to retain a high shine finish. Buffing a gold plated item isn't necessary, may wear down the plating over time and expose the metal underneath.

The Kemp Solid Brass Outdoor Bulkhead Light

Physical Tests

Brass is a non-magnetic metal. If a magnet does sticks to the item, it is likely not brass but a brass-plated steel or another magnetic base metal.

Brass is also much denser than many other metals and will feel weighty in your hand. If the item feels lighter than expected, then it may not be solid brass.

Scratch an inconspicuous area of the item with a sharp tool. Real brass will reveal a similar yellow tone underneath, while brass plating will show a silver, or sometimes copper base metal.

Brass produces a pleasant ringing sound when knocked with a hard object. Try tapping the item with a coin. If it’s brass, it should produce a resonant ringing sound, whereas other metals or alloys will produce a duller thud.

By using a combination of these methods, you can determine if any of your brass object in your home is real or not.

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