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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.
Copper in turn oxidizes which protects it from rust and ages gracefully unlike other metals. These qualities make copper a good material for door knockers making them stronger and more durable for decades to come. Another material which bodes well for making door knockers is stainless steel. This material is famous for being strong and resistant to corrosion. Decorative door knockers made from stainless steel were very popular especially during the early 1900s. For those who wish to have traditional door knockers installed in their homes first they need to find out the type of installation procedure to implement.
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Different manufacturers describe them as Grecian Urns or Victorian Urns. Each appears to have some merit. It is possible that the relationship to eras revolves around the designs used as each period features its own distinctive style of ornamentation. Some are embellished with flower patterns while others have leaves and feathers. Among my personal favorites being an engraver is the old standard swirling vine pattern that generally seems to fit the urn door knocker form well. I have even come across them adorned with cherubs and angels.