There is no real definition of what constitutes an oily bronze. Most people would agree that, broadly speaking, Oil Rubbed Bronze should have darker brown undertones where a bit of metal base material appears.
How you get there is another story, and most of the time you don’t get there at all. Many are happy to give the illusion of oil-rubbed bronze by finishing the piece in a faux finish or using some sort of spray paint. This makes it very difficult for a little metal to show up since we are talking about paint in this case. Look for oiled bronze furniture, lamps, and kitchen and bathroom accessories. You will often find that the coloring is very uniform and consistent. The reason for this is twofold, Many of us seem to want uniformity in our furniture. Manufacturers give us this by basically painting items or dipping metal-plated items into a chemical tank. It’s easy, cheap, and uniform, and just what we want, right? Oh, and it’s very profitable for that “premium” finish.
If an aged real metal look is desired, you will have to accept that aging and patina are not uniform and will vary from product to product. There can be extreme beauty in the variability associated with metal and the aging process. You can see the variations by looking at the statues and buildings in any old town. Beautiful! But it’s definitely not cookie cutter!
Here’s how the artisan creates the look of oil-rubbed bronze. Starting with the metal or consisting of real metal, a polish is applied, chemicals that change the metal and change the color. Think of patina as rust and rust as patina. But what we call rust is only common to ferrous metals such as iron and steel. Other metals explode naturally in their own way and show wide color variations depending on variables such as salty air, pollution and temperature. Besides brown hues, greens, blacks and blue often appear on Bronze, Brass and Copper.
The skilled patinator uses his magic to produce these natural colors without waiting several centuries for the patina to develop. Chemicals are applied in various combinations to give the desired appearance. Greens, blues, and browns each require different techniques, but the final step is the same. To give a natural look, highlights are hand rubbed to reveal the beauty, shine and life of the underlying metal.