There is no true definition of what constitutes oil rubbed bronze. Most agree, broadly speaking, that Oil Rubbed Bronze should have darker brown tones with some of the metal base material in view.

How you get there is another story, and often you can’t get there at all. Many are happy to give the illusion of oil rubbed bronze by mimicking the finish of the piece or by using a spray paint of some kind. This makes it very difficult to show a bit of metal, as we are talking about paint in this case. Look at oil rubbed bronze bathroom and kitchen furniture, lamps and fixtures. Generally, you will find the coloring to be very even and consistent. The reason for this is twofold. One, many of us seem to want uniformity in our furnishings. Manufacturers give us that basically by painting the items or dipping the metal plated items in a chemical tank. Easy, cheap and uniform, and just what we want, right? Oh, and very profitable for this “premium” finish.

If you want the look of real aged metal, you will have to accept that aging and patina are not uniform and will differ from item to item. There can be extreme beauty in the variability associated with metal and the aging process. You can see the variations by looking at the statues and buildings in any older city. Beautifull! But it’s certainly not a cookie cutter!

This is how the craftsman creates the look of oil rubbed bronze. Starting with metal, or a real metal composite finish, chemicals are applied that alter the metal and change the color. Think of patina as rust and rust as patina. But what we call rust is only common on ferrous metals like iron and steel. Other metals naturally patina in their own way and show large color differences depending on variables such as salty air, pollution, and temperature. Brown tones, as well as greens, blacks, and blues are often shown in bronze, brass, and copper.

The skilled skater works his magic to produce these natural colors without waiting a couple of centuries for the patina to develop. Chemicals are applied in various combinations to give the desired look. Greens, blues, and browns require different techniques, but the final step is the same. To give it a natural look, the highlights are rubbed in by hand letting the beauty, shine and life of the underlying metal shine through.

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