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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.
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.
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This material has a long life and is available in different creative designs. The rear mounting is done by drilling the door thus the knocker is firmly fixed on it. The styles you choose is a personal affair as it brings out your own attributes. You should however choose a knocker that will look natural on your door. You can renew the look of your front door by installing a new knocker or replacing the old one along with old knobs deadbolts kick plates doorbell and your mail slot. Door knockers have been important symbols throughout history and have been mentioned in a lot of metaphors.