Stainless Steel vs. Bronze or Brass Finishes
The earliest light fixtures were made of brass and bronze because of their weight and low heat conductivity. Although stainless steel was invented in 1912, it took decades to discover that it was a better finish and product for lighting fixtures. Even today people associate the weight of brass with quality and the luster of polished brass fixtures with elegance but the problem with brass and bronze is that they require a coating to prevent tarnishing and oxidation; even a lacquered brass gets easily marked up with fingerprints and oils. Once this coating wears off the fixtures must be polished frequently to retain their luster. Brass will often look dated very fast if the lacquer is left to wear off and the fixture remains unpolished. Although brass is heavier than stainless steel it is softer and more porous making these pieces more susceptible to scratches and gouges. Stainless steel is harder, more durable and will hold its shiny finish. A higher quantity of brass is needed in order to make a brass fixture as strong as a stainless one. Brass is a heavy and expensive metal and adding more only makes it more expensive and heavier than its stainless steel counterpart. As the lighting industry goes green, brass fixtures would be counterproductive, as the smelting process used to produce brass is dirty and harsh to our environment. Brass fixtures were great for their time but the introduction of stainless steel and aluminum has made them obsolete.