Before and After: Aging and Refinishing — Giving Your Bronze Products Character and New Life

Bronze is such a critical metal for fabrication that there is an entire historical era dedicated to its name. Its durability and sense of permanence made it the go-to metal for centuries starting as early as 4500BCE in Serbia, and 3000BCE in China and eventually replacing all stone tools in Europe by 1200BCE. The legacy of bronze is a favourite of archaeologists and history buffs because it preserved much of the cultural artifacts from these ancient civilizations and is a large part of the reason we have any knowledge about their cultures at all. Bronze is still widely used today and its popularity with clients has never slowed down. It offers variety in terms of design capabilities and typefaces, and ultimately, establishes a prominence in the finished product.

The final look of bronze can change over time, developing something called patinas, or the greenish layers that unfold on bronze over time. The look of aged bronze conjures up images of old Europe and important art institutions. Many clients love this style, particularly for artisanal sculptural or statue work, as the green finish that comes to bronze with time carries the weight and prestige of history with it. As bronze is primarily an alloy of copper and other metals, it is really the oxidation of its copper content that accounts for this process. Perhaps one of the most prominent examples of oxidized copper is the roof of the Canadian Parliament Buildings. Bronze, however, offers the best alternative because it gives this iconic, historicized look but once the oxidized layer is formed, the underlying metal is ultimately protected from further corrosion. This means that it does not need to be replaced and remains an extremely durable metal. If this ancient look is what you desire, you need not fear having to wait years to get it. With Behrends, this natural process can easily be mimicked and sped up with the application of various processes to develop patinas, and we have had multiple requests to do so in our 60+ years in the industry.

Alternately, (mainly in the case of plaques) bronze can also go darker without that iconic green hue. The result is a very aged look that can be a bit dull. In particularly old plaques, this can dampen its overall effect. For these circumstances, Behrends is also proficient in restorative practices that will refinish a plaque (no matter how old!) and breathe new life into it. Recently, we had the incredible experience of refinishing a plaque for the City of Calgary. The plaque originally memorialized the erecting of the HillHurst (Louise) Bridge in 1920 which would make the plaque nearly 100 years old! Inside sources suggest that when the bridge was rehabilitated in the mid-1990s, this plaque was removed and put into storage for 18 to 20 years. All of this took its toll on the plaque until it was found, forgotten in a shed and brought to Behrends for refinishing. The end result is a brilliant plaque that points to the incredible resilience of the original bronze. We are so proud to be part of the preservation and making of history in the communities that we serve!