How to Identify Brass Antique Markings

By Debbie Donner
Brass antique markings can help you determine the age of your item.

For centuries artisans have been placing their marks on the works they have created, whether in porcelain, glass, silver, gold, stoneware or brass. A maker’s mark is like the artist’s signature on a painting. It is a way to identify the creator’s work and reputation while conveying a certain standard of quality. Maker’s marks were often stamped or carved into each piece. The most sought-after brass antiques are candlesticks and andirons (metal support for fireplace logs) from the 18th and 19th centuries. If you wish to determine the age and maker of your antique piece, it will be helpful to know how to identify brass antique markings.

Determine if your piece is actually brass and not copper. Both brass and copper will acquire a greenish-blue patina with age and oxidation, which can make proper identification of an antique piece difficult. Generally the most effective way to distinguish brass from copper is by color: copper typically exhibits the color of a new penny--kind of an orange, almost reddish color. Brass has much more yellow to its shade, more like gold.

Maker's marks were stamped or carved into a piece to prevent forgery.

Examine your brass antique item to locate the maker’s mark. If the creator marked the finished piece, most likely it will be stamped or etched into the metal somewhere. Often times the maker’s mark will be on the base of the piece, inside a lid or on the back of a handle.

Take a picture or make a sketch of the maker's mark. For items like andirons, this will be useful if you need to consult with local antique dealers for help identifying the creator of your piece. Having a photo or drawing will be much easier than hauling around a heavy brass item.

Search through print and online resources of maker’s marks. The local library or Robert E. Eliason’s Early American Brass Makers may be valuable resources, especially if any history is known about your brass antique. The website Antique-Marks.com has a very comprehensive antique marks glossary which can help narrow down the maker of a piece. Marks4Silver.com offers an online library of over 12,000 confirmed makers’ marks on silver, jewelry and metalware, including brass artifacts.

Extend your research to local antique shops and dealers, or visit an antiques show. Knowledgeable antiques dealers are often willing to offer an abundance of free information. They may also be able to direct you to other valuable resources that can help you identify brass antique markings.

Tip

With your online research, focus more on informational sites than buying and selling websites.

About the Author

Based in California, Debbie Donner is a freelance online writer who primarily writes articles related to personal finance. Donner received a Mensa scholarship in 2006 while attending California State University, Fresno. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts and a multiple-subject teaching credential.