FAQ: Identifying Antique Brass

Wondering if your Decor or Accessory is genuine antique brass? Learn the key characteristics to uncover the metal content and even approximate its age.

Is It Solid Antique Brass?

Many antique brass pieces are solid, but some are merely plated with a thinner brass coating. Use a magnet to distinguish:

Magnet attracts the piece: It's plated brass, with an underlying magnetic metal like iron or steel.

No attraction: Congratulations, you have solid antique brass!

Recognizing Antique Brass Features

From sconces and lamps to beds and musical instruments, antique brass finds various applications. However, recognizing it can be tricky due to factors like:

Lacquer: Applied to prevent tarnishing, it can obscure the original color.

Polish: Used to enhance the appearance, altering the original finish.

Storage conditions: Impacting the overall look and patina.

Here's what to look for:


  • Reddish to yellow: Varies depending on the zinc-copper ratio.
  • More zinc: Creates a yellowish hue, often used for durable items like hardware.
  • Less zinc: Results in a reddish or even reddish-brown color, common in decorative objects and jewelry.
  • Tin presence: Helps prevent corrosion and may be present in some antique brass.


  • Antique brass typically exhibits tarnish unless meticulously cleaned.
  • Zinc and copper react with air and oils, causing mottled tarnish with shades of gray, black, red, and brown.
  • Thick tarnish can develop over time, covering the piece completely.
  • Tarnish is expected and can be removed if desired.


  • Some antique brass pieces are varnished to prevent tarnishing.
  • Over time, the varnish can fade, peel, or develop uneven patches of tarnish.
  • Lacquering dates back to the 19th century, and older pieces might show dullness, tiny holes, or cracks in the varnish.

Producer Marks:

  • Many antique brass pieces feature marks or logos indicating their origin and production date.
  • Look for these marks on the back or bottom of the piece, often appearing as letters, numbers, or symbols.
  • Websites like Tarrab.com offer resources for identifying these marks.

Plated Brass:

  • Identifying plated antique brass can be challenging.
  • In some eras, brass fell out of style, and owners would paint the pieces instead of discarding them.
  • These painted pieces resemble other coated metals.
  • Peeling or rubbing off some paint might reveal the brass underneath, allowing restoration to its original form.

Refurbished Antique Brass:

  • Some antique brass pieces undergo restoration over time.
  • Lacquer removal might occur to eliminate the rough surface.
  • This typically does not affect the value of the piece.
  • Welding might be done to strengthen the structure or repair damage.
  • Close inspection might reveal new weld marks.
  • Expertly done restorations are often subtle and difficult to detect at a glance.

Modern Antique Brass Finishes:

  • You can find numerous decorative pieces and artwork in modern antique brass finishes.
  • These finishes are typically duller and more textured than polished brass, offering a subtly aged look.
  • When differentiating between antique and modern antique brass finishes, look for signs of wear.
  • A smooth surface and evidence of machine production indicate a modern piece with an "antique" finish.

By understanding these characteristics, you can confidently identify and appreciate your antique brass treasures.

Now that you're equipped with the knowledge to identify antique brass, explore the world of genuine brass decor and accessories available at Tarrab.co! We offer a curated collection of unique brass pieces, from vintage finds to modern handcrafted creations. Browse our online store today to find your own piece of history and add a touch of timeless beauty to your home.

Browse now and discover the timeless elegance of genuine brass!

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