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Guide to Hardware Finishes

Because there are so many beautiful choices, finding the right cabinet hardware may be a challenge.  But it is also a wonderful opportunity to add a personal touch to any space.  The differences between each finish are found not only in color, but in durability, style and budget as well.

To help you select the most suitable cabinet hardware for your needs, we have compiled an explanatory guide to metal hardware finishes.  Although many companies offer the same finishes, there may be slight variations in the finish between manufacturers.  Therefore, we recommend that the hardware in each room be purchased from the same manufacturer to ensure a perfect match.

Antique Brass is a classic finish crafted from brass plating or raw brass.  The brass is chemically darkened so that the hardware acquires an aged look.  Antique brass is typically medium brown in color, with golden undertones.  Because the 'aging' process differs between hardware companies, not all antique brass is identical in color.  Ordering samples in advance is the best way to ensure which antique brass hardware will perfectly match your decor.  Brass is composed of 60% copper and 40% zinc, and although it is comparatively softer than bronze which has a very similar look, it is still widely purchased because of its durability.

Polished Brass is one of the most common and durable brass finishes.  It is made with solid brass that is polished and sealed with lacquer to prevent tarnishing.  Its glossy finish makes it an elegant addition to any space.

Oil-rubbed Bronze hardware generally has an intensely dark brown color as a result of a chemical darkening process applied to the bronze.  The finish's subtle copper undertone gives it that unique rustic look.  Bronze is typically considered one of the hardest metals and is remarkably durable.  It is generally comprised of 80% copper and 20% tin.  Oil-rubbed bronze is often referred to as a 'living finish', meaning that color variation is normal from piece to piece, even within the same order.  Although this variation can add a unique flavor to any space, it is recommended to purchase all oil-rubbed bronze hardware from the same manufacturer, to ensure a more balanced look.

Polished Chrome is a versatile finish that is often crafted by applying chrome plating to brass or steel hardware.  Polished chrome does not tarnish.  It looks like nickel, but with a slightly cooler silver tone.

Copper is a unique hardware finish because of its distinctive reddish hue.  Copper is used as a primary component of both brass and bronze.  Because it is malleable and supple, it makes for beautiful cabinet hardware.  Copper is also a good conductor of electricity, and is therefore used in a variety of household products, including cookware, roofing and plumbing.

Iron, in its pure form, is the second most abundant metal in the world, and is the most widely used metal because of its low cost and recognized strength.  Wrought iron is composed primarily of iron, with a small amount of carbon mixed.  Both iron and wrought iron are both malleable and tough metals, which makes them ideal finishes for ornamental cabinet hardware.

Polished Nickel is similar to polished chrome, in that it is made by applying a nickel finish on top of brass.  Like polished chrome, polished nickel does not tarnish.  Its color tone is slightly warmer than that of polished chrome.

Satin Nickel, also known as brushed nickel, is made by applying a dulled-nickel plating on top of brass hardware.  The finish is then coated with lacquer.  Satin nickel looks remarkably similar to stainless steel or aluminum finishes, but is generally considered a softer metal.  Nevertheless, satin nickel hardware is sturdy enough to withstand even vigorous daily usage.

Pewter is a metal that is prepared by mixing tin with a variety of different metals, including lead, copper and zinc, which provide pewter with its strength.  Pewter generally maintains a dull-grey finish.  Its low-melting point makes it an ideal finish for casting, which is why many intricate hardware finishes are crafted from pewter.

Stainless Steel is composed of a variety of metals, with no less than 10% chromium.  Stainless steel is widely recognized as one of the most durable metals because of its high resistance to rust and corrosion.  Stainless steel is often made from recyclable metals, making it not only resilient, but environmentally friendly as well.

Zinc is one of the most commonly used metals in creating hardware and other mechanical parts, including automobile parts.  It is also used to make the American penny and batteries.  Zinc contains a whitish-bluish hue, and is known to tarnish in moist air.
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