Lacquer is a clear coating which protects and preserves the brass by sealing it from air, which oxidizes (tarnishes) it. Lacquer does not initially affect the color of the brass and is thought to eliminate the need for polishing. However, with the onset of oxidation, the lacquer will eventually deteriorate. So when we began our business 35 years ago, we decided to hand polish each piece, and seal it in air tight bags, rather than lacquer.
There are three major reasons why we didn’t lacquer—one was practical and other others were historical and artistic. First, any lacquer on brass will eventually tarnish and deteriorate—particularly items that are used outdoors and exposed to the elements, like door knockers. Lacquer on items subject to abrasion from manual use, such as candlesticks, fireplace tools and desk accessories, will also discolor and break down. Simply, any lacquered brass item that is useful will in time develop an impaired finish. The period of time for this deterioration will vary depending on location, atmospheric condition, temperature, pollutants, etc. Unfortunately, this condition can’t be corrected by polishing. Before re-polishing, the old lacquer must be removed.
Second, as many of our items are reproductions of famous historical pieces, we thought it was in keeping with their character that they have the natural, hand-polished look. Artificial and temporary finishes such as lacquer detract from their authenticity, we believed.
Finally there were overwhelming aesthetic reasons why we preferred the natural luster of highly polished brass. The color of recently polished brass has a “whiteness” and sparkle about it that is obtained in no other way. It is breathtaking! It is this unique combination of clear color plus the mild warm patina that is created over time by judicious hand polishing that makes the old method of finishing and polishing by hand so special.