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The metal is actually an alloy (two or more metals mixed together); usually containing 85-99% tin and the rest copper. Lower-grade pewter has a bluish color because lead is also added. Although there is little practical use for the metal today its still a popular material for decorative objects because it is easy to produce while retaining an elegant texture.Copper is renowned for its ability to withstand the natural elements; it is the only material that doesnt rust. Instead it oxidizes - which means it forms a unique green cover when exposed to oxygen (think of the statue of liberty). Besides aging gracefully copper doesnt physically deteriorate unlike other metals. The oxidation layer makes the metal stronger which reduces the need to replace any door knockers made out of copper.
The finish should match the rest of the hardware. Door knockers not only come in many finishes they are available in many types of metal. The most stable metal and probably the most common is brass. Brass is easy to machine and cast into shapes. It polishes into a bright gold like finish or satins easily and is easy to maintain. Brass also electroplates readily. This allows it to be nickel or copper plated to simulate pewter and bronze finishes. Because brass is non ferrous it will not rust. It will tarnish though for this reason a good lacquer finish is needed or your purchase will look terrible in a very short time.
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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.