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Pay close attention to what the door knocker is made of. Some manufacturers get away with making low quality zinc or pot metal castings look good for a short time using plating techniques. The problem with these is the good looks do not last. Soon the plating is chipping and pealing away and corrosion is taking over. What type of mounting is needed? Most door knockers employ either through the door mounting or surface mounting. Through the door mounting involves drilling holes through the door. The mounting hardware passes through these holes and attaches to the door knocker on the outside. On the inside decorative nuts are used to secure the door knocker to the door. Surface mounting uses screws to attach the door knocker to the door.
Although intricate door knockers are popular these days the origins of that knocker may be something far more regal than it simply looking nice on the door. Greeks were a bit picky about unannounced visits to their dwellings. It was considered a breach of etiquette to enter a dwelling without warning. Where Spartans would simply shout their arrival the more sophisticated Athenians preferred to use a door knocker. Doors had replaced flexible hangings to provide better safety and privacy. Upper class Greeks had slaves whose sole purpose was to answer the door. Its a bit like having a butler but one that was chained to the door to prevent them wandering off.
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The first known knockers were made out of wrought iron. These simple ornaments consisted of a thick ring and a plate which were used in the 17th and 18th centuries throughout North America and Europe. Human faces (not ghastly like Jacob Marley) an animal faces were popular designs that are still used today. The craftsmanship on some of these knockers was elaborate enough to compare to the most-polished sculpture. Basically the purpose is to save the knuckles of visitors. Although they mainly serve as decoration they are still made of brass pewter iron or stainless steel to be durable enough to withstand outdoor elements. Plus they must be heavy enough to make a sound when they are tapped against a door. Cast iron styles have been favorites for a long time for their simplicity and sturdiness. They are also good for complimenting a Western theme. Pewter is another popular material.