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What is the difference between brass finishes in cabinet hardware such as polished brass, brushed brass, and satin brass?

Hardware Update

Below we explain the subtle difference between the various finishes found in brass cabinet hardware such as brass cabinet knobs, brass cabinet handles, brass drawer pulls, and brass kitchen fixtures.

Selecting hardware for your project can be overwhelming enough, right? I mean it's the jewelry of the home, it is so important, but there are so many options and who has the time? You just finished selecting counter tops, cabinets styles, you sorted through hundreds of tones of grey (or white or navy!) paint. It seems like the final stretch, you are almost done. Your cabinets are arriving next week (exciting!), and then you hardware. No hardware! You haven't selected your hardware, and you think well, where do I start? 

Nowadays, it is quite possible that your options will be chrome, black/bronze, or last but not least, the most popular and elegant finish of all, brass. And so you decide to go with brass because who can resist all the beautiful brass hardware on Pinterest against the gorgeous gray or navy backgrounds? Then you realize, brass is not just brass there is an overwhelming number of brass finishes, and given the time crunch, who has time to figure it all out?

Well, we're here to provide you with an easy and quick primer on the main brass finishes. Hopefully we can at least we can save you time with that step!

By way of summary, we will describe three brass finishes below: (1) Polished Brass, (2) Brushed Brass, and (3) Satin Brass.

Polished Brass 

Polished Brass Cabinet Knobs

Pictured: Brass Ball Knobs (Link here)

Our Polished Brass Ball Knobs are a perfect example (pictured above). Polished brass most often means it is solid brass that has been polished and finished with a lacquer to prevent tarnishing and patina over time. Polished brass tends to be bright and shinny, and very reflective! Like the knobs above, which were very difficult to photograph for that reason. If you look close enough you can see me and my camera in the reflection.

Now, I should note that unlike the knobs pictured above, which are solid brass, a similar finish is often found in hardware made of other metal alloys. The metal is sometimes electroplated and similarly finished with a lacquer. Though not as heavy as brass, other metals can also have a beautiful finish, which will often be called polished brass. In such a case, it will be due to the similarity of the finish to polished brass, but it may not be solid brass. Such is the case with our gorgeous Luna Brass Cabinet Handles pictured below:

Polished Brass Drawer Pulls

Pictured: Luna Brass Cabinet Handles (Link Here)

Brushed Brass

 Brushed brass is one of the most popular finishes of the past few years and it's popularity can be easily explained: this finish is modern and can make a statement without being flashy, and it can be bright and warm at the same time. Now, as to what the finish looks like, brushed brass tends to have tiny brush marks throughout, as it someone slightly wiped the surface with steel wool. Our McCobb style mid-century knob is a good example, it flaunts that brushed finish for a vintage but modern look.

 Brushed Brass Mid-Century Cabinet Knob

 Pictured: McCobb Style Mid-Century Brass Cabinet Knob (Link Here)

Satin Brass

Last but not least, the most popular of all, the trendiest of them all, satin brass. Though the term is used interchangeably with brushed brass due to their similarities, satin brass is in fact different from brushed brass, mainly because it does not reflect the distinctive brush marks that characterize the brushed brass finish.

Our Peggy Satin Brass knob is a perfect example of the beauty the satin brass finish has to offer.

Satin Brass Cabinet Knob

Pictured: Peggy Satin Brass Cabinet Knob (Link Here)

As you can see, satin brass is not shinny, it is sort of matte and offers the perfect balance of gleam. Satin brass is soft, you will notice it when you enter the room, and you will notice it for the right reasons: because it looks perfect against every background color, navy, white, gray, you name it!. Satin brass is the cabinet hardware that makes a subtle statement: bold but classy.

Satin brass is often finished with a top coat/lacquer so that the beautiful finish is maintained though eternity. For that reason, satin brass finishes often do not patina. This is not to be confused with the living finish of plain brass, which may look similar but will patina over time since that is what brass naturally does. It may be difficult to tell whether you brass item will patina or not, therefore sometimes it is important to ask the manufacturer or supplier whether the item is lacquered (if this is important to your vision for the project).

Other gorgeous examples of satin brass are our Brass European Cabinet Pulls. They are some of our most popular collections and you can see why, they are perfectly timeless.


Top left: European T-knob (Link Here)

Top right: Peggy Brass Cabinet Pull (Link Here)

Bottom: European Round Cabinet Pull (Link Here)

European 3" T-Bar Brass Cabinet Pull (Link Here)

Finally (above) our most popular collection! I did mean to save the best for last! The t-bar pull above is our European T-Bar Brass Cabinet Pull. As you can see the finish is a little warmer and so beautiful! The finish on this collection can also be called satin brass though as you can see it is different from the other examples above. 

Thank you for reading our post and we hope it proves helpful in selecting the perfect brass cabinet hardware for your perfect kitchen!


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  • Donna Ross on

    I’m interested in the bronze version of the European T-Bar drawer pulls. They look very black. Are they, in fact, black or are they a dark brown with gold edges?

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