Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oil Rubbed Bronze

Oil Rubbed Bronze and I have a love/hate relationship. Let me explain…..
I love the look of Oil Rubbed Bronze. When put in the right setting it can give a room an old world feel. Oil Rubbed Bronze brings warmth and elegance to almost any décor; it's supposed to be reminiscent of early era hardware that has aged naturally over time.

Here's where my hate comes into play…….
Oil Rubbed Bronze is made differently from manufacturer to manufacturer, it varies depending on what base material it's put on, and it can even be different from piece to piece within a collection. So, when a homeowner wants to do their entire house in Oil Rubbed Bronze I'm prepared with my "Oil Rubbed Bronze speech."

Here is one manufacturer's description of what Oil Rubbed Bronze is supposed to be: "The Oil Rubbed Bronze finish is a chemically darkened surface designed to simulate aged bronze. This finish is very dark and varies from a deep chocolate brown to a dark gray and usually has copper undertones. There is quite a variety of interpretations of this finish in the hardware industry and all oil rubbed bronze finishes do not match."
Basically; there are two types of Oil Rubbed Bronze, the first being a "living" finish. This pretty much means that over time your hardware will change. An Oil Rubbed Bronze that is "living" is a base material of some sort (typically brass) that's been plated in copper (think of a new penny) and then a dark oil solution has been rubbed over that to darken it. Now, over time that dark oil is supposed to rub off with everyday use leaving behind the copper and even some brass showing through. (Think of an older penny.)

The second type of Oil Rubbed Bronze is a "non-living" finish; this of course is the exact opposite of the living version. In most cases, the Copper is plated over a Steel or Brass base material and another brown finish is plated over that. A lot of manufacturers will pre-rub the brown in spots so that you see the copper, some manufacturers will only plate the item in the brown and not rub at all so that you see only a solid brown color. On a "non-living" Oil Rubbed Bronze a lacquer coating is applied so that the color will not change over time.
Because so many manufacturers make this color in many different ways, it's virtually impossible to get the finishes to be uniform for an entire house. Think about trying to get towel bars, switchplates, door locks, cabinet knobs and pulls, and door hinges all throughout the house to be identical…..crazy, I know!

My whole point to this is that the beauty of Oil Rubbed Bronze is that it's not identical, and variations are good. So, when choosing your Oil Rubbed Bronze hardware; embrace the variations. It's what gives this color Life!

This picture shows 5 different examples of Oil Rubbed Bronze.
Oil Rubbed Bronze Knobs

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  1. As a fellow "hardware nerd", I must say, that was an excellent description of oil rubbed bronze. We have clients that get frustrated that they can't "match" US10B finises from brand to brand. They like it even less when we explain that, not only will the finishes will be different when they're newly installed, but just wait five years...the differences will be even greater then! Still, as a sales rep, you must explain to the customer what it will be like to live with the product because most people are so focused on what the product looks like, they forget to consider function, durability, security, and other important issues.

  2. We installed ORB levers throughout our house a few years ago. They have now started to "change". Trust me, nobody who buys ORB wants the "changed" look. It's ugly and looks worse then the dreadful brass doorknobs we replaced. People who choose/buy ORB want it to stay looking the way it did the day they bought it. Ugh! Do NOT choose ORB.

  3. I completely disagree with you. I love the CHANGED look and am actually looking into speeding that look up. People DO want the color to change. You are way off base.

  4. I am looking for something that changes and shows patina asap. Would love to swap out a new ORB kitchen faucet with a restaurant's for a few months just to accelerate the process!

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Have been scratching my head trying to figure out what 'non-living' finish meant in a manufacturer's brochure. Funny how they never expain it anywhere.