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How can I tell if the knob I am purchasing is lacquered or unlacquered? Will my pieces patina over time?

How can I tell if the knob I am purchasing is lacquered or unlacquered? Will my pieces patina over time?

A very common question we get from our clients is whether a particular brass item, such as a brass cabinet knob or brass drawer handle, is lacquered or unlacquered. We get this questions because our clients would like to know whether the item's color will change or in other words whether it will acquire a patina over time. While some might prefer the shiny, warm finish of new brass, many love the patina finish of older brass.

The short answer: most modern items will not change color or acquire a patina. 

What is patina?

A word that often comes up in the context of design is patina so we thought it would be a great idea to start with the basics. 'Patina' is a term that refers to the blue-green layer of corrosion that develops on the surface of copper and brass when it is exposed to sulfur and oxide compounds. Before the surface turns green, however, which can take a while, unlacquered brass items develop a beautiful toned-down brass tone like the one in this beautiful door knob below.

patina unlacquered brass knob

Photo Credit: Bungalow Classic

When many years pass, the brass or copper itself will become covered in the green patina hue, like the Statue of Liberty(which one had a copper hue in the late 19th century)!

lady liberty copper patina

But she is now green and covered in patina.

copper patina lady liberty

 Brass hardware goes through a similar process if the brass is unlaquered and the brass metal itself is exposed to the elements. 

Will my hardware acquire patina? 

 Most modern hardware, including 99% of the hardware we sell here at Forge Hardware Studio will not patina because the hardware has a clear lacquer top coat. This lacquer top coat is meant to preserve the finish as it exists the moment you purchase your hardware. The truth is that most clients nowadays like the modern brass and satin brass finishes, which will be lost if the item is not protected with a lacquer. 

How to tell if the item is lacquered or unlacquered?

Most items listed as polished brass, satin brass or brushed brass will generally be lacquered. All of those finishes require a lacquer in order to remain the same tone over time. Any time you see an item listed in those finishes it will most likely be lacquered and the color won't change. 

If you are one of those who is looking for unlacuqered brass, then you need to find items that are listed as such. Generally, items that are unlacquered will specifically say so. You may also be able to tell from the price as items in unlacquered brass tend to have a higher price tag, even as compared to the same item being offered in other finishes. 

The following items, for example, are all lacquered

Lew's Hardware 31-115 Bar Series Round Bar Handle



 brushed brass handle



Lew's Hardware Barrel Series Barrel Pull


lew's barrell pull


Geo Cabinet Knob in Satin Brass


brass cabinet knobs


 We hope this guide is helpful in helping you understand whether your item will acquire a patina. If you have other questions, we are always available via chat or at hello@forgehardwarestudio.com

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