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Picking a Faucet | Laquered vs. Unlaquered brass

October 14, 2017

While many of our mothers may cringe, a few of you may have noticed that brass is having a moment right now. Though NOW it’s thankfully showing up in a variety of different brushed and matte versions that are a fresh departure from the typical polished “gold” look that defined the finish 25 years ago. I was first exposed to the finish when helping folks match door sets and cabinet hardware from 75+ years ago. I love brass primarily for it’s old fashioned elegance, and the warmth of the hue. And I especially love the unlacquered brass that patinas over time adding a weathered, classic appearance to kitchens and bathrooms.

But what is the difference between polished and unlaquered brass?

Unlacquered brass lacks the top layer that keeps the brass finish of the 1980’s looking bright forever.  Instead, unlacquered brass weathers over time and takes on a beautiful and warm patina.  This is not a finish for the perfectionist, but better suited to someone who likes a bit of age and the unique appearance of weather metals. The same kind of person that has marble countertops and shrugs at the inevitable etching that comes from wine and lemon juice.

I was convinced that this was the finish I wanted to go with for our kitchen. When we were designing the architectural interiors for our Farmhouse I kept insisting on “living finishes.” After some convincing Nick came around to my vision of brass faucets and door hardware that would weather naturally over time — with more tarnish in the areas that were touched the most and bits of shininess left around the edges. This was all well and good until I started looking for an affordable brass faucet.  I collected inspiration from everywhere I went, read up on how to take care of brass and found the perfect cabinet hardware (at Rejuvenation no less!) but for the life of me I couldn’t find a reasonably priced brass faucet in a “living finish.”

Designer: Studio McGee | Photographed by House Beautiful

And here is why….

Unlacquered faucets are made of pure brass – and can always be polished to its original beauty.

Often faucets that appear to be brass are actually brass-plated, and are typically made of steel or white metal (zinc) to which molecules of brass are electroplated. A lacquer is applied to protect this plating, which is thin and will eventually deteriorate over time. Brass plated pieces can be polished successfully once the lacquer is removed but if the brass-plating itself has deteriorated the entire pieced often needs to be re-plated. An Unlacquered brass faucet is far more expensive to make because the brass needs to be clean and pure the entire way through which is hard to replicate without some serious attention to detail, hence the $$$.

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