Brass and gold are both finishes for metal that are commonly found in homes, typically on light fittings and ornaments, but also for plug sockets, door handles, and light switches.
If you are trying to decide between these two finishes for decor in your home, then it can be useful to understand the differences in order to make the right choice for you. Here we look at what defines brass and gold from each other, as the two can sometimes be confused.
What is Brass? and What is Gold
Brass and gold are both types of metal, though when it comes to home interiors, it is unusual for solid brass or gold to be used, and instead, you will find fixtures and fittings that are brass plated or metals that have been colored to look like brass or gold. When it comes to the metals themselves, brass and gold can be easily identified from each other.
Gold is a much denser metal compared with brass, so if you have two items of the same size, then you will find that the gold item is much heavier than the brass. Gold is a non-reactive metal, while brass is reactive. This means that gold won’t tarnish when exposed to air or acid, whereas brass can become discolored.
For decorative brass and gold finishes, it is unlikely that real gold will have been used even for plating because it is a very expensive material. Brass furnishings may be plated with brass, or they may have been colored to look like brass, as gold furnishings will have been.
The easiest way to tell the difference between brass and gold finishes is the color. Brass has a dull golden tone, with a hint of brown, while gold will have a bright and yellow appearance.
The two colors are very similar and can be easier to differentiate from each other when they are side by side. Brass will always have a slightly more subdued and neutral look to it compared with gold, which is much more attention-grabbing.
Brass and gold are available in a range of finishes. In contemporary decor, shiny polished gold and satin or matte gold are among the most popular finishes, whereas for brass, the more popular finishes in style currently are satin and brushed brass.
This finish of gold or brass is achieved by polishing the metal until it achieves a glossy shine that makes it appear almost mirror-like.
This is a finish of metal that was popular in home decor in the 1980s and 1990s, but it has seen a resurgence in interior design as part of glamorous and luxury styles. This type of gold or bronze finish can typically be found on modern light fittings, faucets, vases, and decorative objects.
Satin gold or satin brass is a finish that has a pearlescent look to it. This can be achieved by sanding back the metal with very fine sandpaper. This look is a more muted finish that can be good if you like the color of gold or brass but find the gloss effect too brash.
Brushed gold looks a lot like satin gold, but with more obvious brushstrokes present in the finish. This is achieved by using very fine sandpaper being rubbed over the metal in one direction, resulting in lots of tiny scratches that look like brush marks.
This finish can have a more rustic look to it, making it well suited for casual interior styles.
Matte metal finishes are much more subtle than their glossy counterparts. These metals will have been rubbed down with a fine-grit to give them a flat appearance.
Hammered gold or brass finishes will have been struck with a small hard object multiple times over until the entire surface of the metal looks heavily textured.
The resulting effect is a surface that looks vintage or antique and can add a quirky personality to a space.
Brass or Gold for Home Interiors?
The best choice between brass and gold for your home interior will depend on the style you are trying to achieve. As brass is more subtle, this type of metal can work best for more casual or laid-back styles, such as coastal or country cottage interior looks.
For an obvious glamour, you may want to choose gold, though brass can work well for a more refined, understated luxury look.
The style of your brass or gold fittings should also be considered because this will help to define the look of your space. Shiny gold faucets in an angular or sleek design will look modern, while shiny gold faucets with decorative details will look dated and old-fashioned.
As brass and gold are both warm shades, they will add a comforting and inviting appeal to any room, making them a good option, especially in spaces where natural light is lacking or your choice of decor colors have made for a clinical or hostile feeling room.
The other colors in your palette will also affect whether brass or gold will be most complimentary for your color scheme. Both colors will stand out nicely against dark and cool shades, as both brass and gold are warm colors, so their energy will help to balance out the cool atmosphere.
To make a feature of brass or gold, position them against cool colors such as blue and green or dark neutrals like black, chocolate brown, or slate gray.
If you are using medium shades of beige, such as tan, or orange and yellow shades, then you will have more trouble making brass and gold stand out. For orange interiors, use gold over brass because this has a more bright yellow tone that will contrast slightly against orange.
For yellow interiors, choose brass over gold because this will have a duller, less yellow shade, with a very mild hint of brown, allowing it to be seen against yellow. The choice between brass and gold also comes down to personal preference, and that color feels best to you.