Unlacquered Brass Finish

Love finishes with rich depth and patina? Read on to learn all about unlacquered brass finish and whether or not it’s right for you.

unlacquered brass finishes

When I shared our office built ins recently, I received some questions about the beautiful gold hardware we used. It happens to be unlacquered brass, which is one of my favorite hardware and plumbing finishes. I realized when answering those questions that many people are curious about unlacquered brass… So I thought a little educational post might be helpful.

agreeable gray built in bookcases with unlacquered brass knobs and pulls
unlacquered brass knobs and pulls on painted cabinets (see full project)

What is unlacquered brass?

Unlacquered brass, sometimes called unfinished raw brass, is simply brass (which is an alloy of copper and zinc) that has not been sealed with a protective coating. This exposed raw brass can oxidize and interact with elements in the environment, causing it to patina and change over time, which is also known as a “living finish.”

office bookcase with vintage unlacquered brass table lamp
vintage unlacquered brass table lamp

What is lacquered vs unlacquered brass?

Lacquered brass is brass that has been sealed with a protective coating to keep it from tarnishing. It will remain a bright, yellow color. Most finishes labeled “polished brass” are lacquered.

What happens to unlacquered brass over time?

As I mentioned above, there are several elements that can affect how unfinished brass ages: the humidity of your area, the use of the item (e.g. a bathroom faucet vs a cabinet pull), the minerals in your water, and more. Sometimes it will oxidize to a green patina; other times it will simply darken and look more brown than yellow.

what happens to unlacquered brass over time
what happens to unlacquered raw brass over time

Most finishes labeled “aged brass” or “antique brass” have been artificially aged or darkened to mimic this look.

How do you keep brass from tarnishing?

If you would prefer brass maintains its original shiny state, then you will want to clean and polish it regularly. Avoid touching it with your hands more than necessary, as the oils of your hands can speed up the aging process. You can clean it regularly with a soft cloth and ammonia. But you will still need to polish it from time to time if you want to to remain truly shiny.

unlacquered brass cabinet knobs on SW Agreeable gray cabinetry

I have had good success with both ketchup (really!) and bar keepers friend as brass polish options. But remember that you don’t need to keep it polished unless you want to; it’s a matter of preference. If you truly prefer the polished look, then you might want to save yourself the work and purchase lacquered polished brass instead.

When to use unlacquered brass

If you are the type of person who enjoys things that age gracefully, then you can use a raw brass finish almost anywhere!

unlaquered brass hardware ages beautifully

You can use unlacquered brass faucets and unlacquered brass cabinet hardware, such as knobs and pulls, in kitchens and baths, bedrooms, and more.

I think unlacquered brass is a beautiful, classic choice in a traditional style home or a more transitional style. Raw brass is a beautiful complement to other natural materials, like marble and wood. And it can embody an antique look elegantly. It also is lovely against painted cabinetry.

unlacquered brass knobs on black bathroom vanity with marble counter and polished nickel faucet
unlacquered brass knobs on black bathroom vanity with marble and polished nickel faucet

You don’t have to outfit an entire home or room, though. Brass accents can be a great option, too. You can mix brass cabinet hardware with other metals, such as polished nickel or matte black, for a more contemporary look. Get inspiration on mixing metal finishes here.

Where to find unlacquered brass

Here are a few recommendations for finding brass fixtures and hardware: faucets, hinges, door knobs, cabinet pulls, light fixtures, and other accessories.

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Rejuvenation – They offer it as one of their standard finish options for many of their fixtures and hardware. They can be expensive, but the solid brass light fixtures, hardware, and accessories are a quality investment.

Etsy – Many sellers on Etsy have both vintage and new items with this finish… Often at much more affordable prices than big designer stores.

House of Antique Hardware – I love their many traditional options, especially for cabinet knobs and pulls.

Build – The variety of options they offer in raw brass is pretty impressive.

Here are a few favorites I found when looking recently:

unlacquered brass fixtures and hardware

1-squared off cup pull | 2-cabinet latch | 3-classic round knob | 4-beverage sink faucet
5-pot filler | 6-gooseneck bridge faucet | 7-ball cabinet knob | 8-door knob tall backplate
9-rounded cup pull | 10- cross handles faucet | 11-victorian bridge faucet | 12-cabinet pull
13-brass sink | 14-door hinge | 15-door knob | 16- unlacquered brass kitchen faucet

In short, unlacquered brass hardware and fixtures can come with a hefty price tag, but their classic, beautiful longevity makes them a wonderful investment. I hope you found this helpful. And I would love to know if you have used and enjoyed this timeless finish in your home!

beauty with age: unlacquered brass hardware finishes

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