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The History of Brass Metals

Aug 17, 2007
Making of articles and figures from the brass metal probably dates back to the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Some of the things that were made with brass are candlesticks, dishes of various sizes, chandeliers

Brass
The most popular surviving form of brassware is probably the domestic candlestick. These were made usually in pairs, and are rarely older than the middle of the seventeenth century. At that time they were on domed circular bases, with a pan to catch drips of wax halfway up the stout central column. Early in the eighteenth century, shaped bases and tall stems with grease-pans at the very top came into fashion. With variations from time to time, this style continued in use until the candle was no longer the principal illuminant in the home.

Metal works
Brass was made into dishes of various sizes, often with embossed designs of Biblical scenes with inscriptions on the borders. These are sometimes still to be seen in use as alms-dishes in churches.

Chandeliers of brass with curved branching arms were made in England and also on the Continent. Many of them date from the seventeenth century, but most have been made more recently in response to continual demand.

Ormolu
This is the French name (literally or moulu, molded gold) for articles and furniture mounts made of bronze and gilded. The piece having been made in bronze was carefully and finely finished by chiseling and polishing and then coated with a mixture of mercury and gold. This amalgam was subjected to heat and the mercury evaporated leaving the gold deposited on the surface. Finally, the gold was burnished where required, or left matt.

The French developed the art of designing and making furniture mounts from ormolu, and were equally proficient at making clock cases, candlesticks, inkstands and other suitable pieces from the same material. Much thought was given to the mounting of porcelain in ormolu, and vases and figures with bases and other enhancements were valued highly for decoration. They fetch high prices today, but only if the mounts are genuinely of the eighteenth century. From 1745 to 1749 a tax was levied on ormolu, and pieces were stamped in a similar manner to silver. The mark is a letter 'c' beneath a crown, but as it was in use apparently for no more than four years specimens bearing it is rare.

German ormolu is not dissimilar to French, although seldom as highly finished. In England, the firm of Boulton and Fothergill, of Soho, Birmingham, made good ormolu at the end of the eighteenth century.

Old ormolu is sometimes found with the gilding in good condition, but frequently it is worn away on the surfaces exposed to by wear and tear; its greatest enemy is metal-polish, which should never be used on it. As with Sheffield plate, ormolu can be replated electrically but the appearance of the old cannot be reproduced exactly.

Beside brass ormolu, the French for articles and furniture mounts made of bronze and gilded, developed the French name. They developed the art of designing and making furniture mounts from this ormolu and they were equally proficient at making clock cases, candlesticks, inkstands and other suitable pieces from this material. Then the German and the English followed later on in the eighteenth.
About the Author
Mitch Johnson is a regular writer for http://www.kitchen-plans-n-designs.com/ , http://www.besttipsforcollectables.info/ , http://www.collectablesguide.info/
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