How to Determine the Condition of Objects Made of Bronze, Brass, & Other Metals Like an Expert

This article will explain common condition issues found in bronze, brass, and other metal objects. It will help you determine if these condition issues are present in your metal object. 

Handle metal objects with clean, dry hands and remove rings or dangling bracelets.  Never place pressure on small parts or applied decorative handles when picking up these objects. If the piece has a lid or other unsecured parts, remove them before handling the item. To examine the bottom or underside, you may want to lay the object on its side on a soft surface, such as a loosely rolled towel.

Keep in mind that if you discover condition issues, they will not necessarily hurt the sales value of your object. Some condition issues are inherent to the materials used and their presence can confirm the age of the object. 

Dents or Bends

Carefully examine the surface of the work from all angles. Run your fingertips over the surface. Do you notice any depressions, indentations, or dents? Can you determine if the object has been bent or dropped? 

Scratches and Gouges

Carefully examine the object. Do not forget the underside and areas near the base. Are there any light scratches to the surface? Scratches can result from normal use or overzealous cleaning. Are there any gouges, or deeper scratches?


Pitting can manifest as small cavities, pinpoints, or depressions, or as a pattern of etching. Pitting is caused by weathering, erosion, and other corrosive processes.


Are there any broken or missing components? Carefully examine detailed areas and applied decoration. Make note of missing handles, finials, or lids. 

Damage to Patina

The term patina refers to the surface appearance of metals. Patina can develop naturally over time or may be deliberately applied by the artist or maker. Carefully assess the condition of a patinated surface. Are there areas of wear, loss, or discoloration? Make note of irregular patterns of corrosion. 

Chips or Losses to Base

A base, plinth, pedestal, or stand is often employed to support a sculptural work. Closely examine the base. Are there any chips, cracks, or losses? Has the base been broken and repaired? Is the work firmly attached to the base?


Run your fingers over the object. Do you notice any inconsistencies in the surface? Examine the applied decoration and handles, if present. Is there any evidence of repair or re-soldering? 

Wear to Gilding

A gilded item is covered in a thin application of gold or silver that is different from the base material. This surface application is delicate and can show signs of wear. Check for losses.


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