Oil Rubbed Bronze isn’t Bronze at all, it is Copper with a Patina Finish.
The other answer is that Oil Rubbed Bronze can be anything the manufacturer or craftsperson wants it to be.
Since there is no true definition, most agree in broad terms that Oil Rubbed Bronze should have darker brown tones with a bit of the metal base material showing through.
How you get there is another story, and often you can’t get there at all. Many are happy to give the illusion of oil rubbed bronze by faux-finishing the piece or using a spray paint of some sort. This makes it very difficult to have a little metal showing through, since we are talking paint in this case. Look at oil rubbed bronze furniture, lamps, kitchen and bath accessories. You will usually find that the coloration is very uniform and consistent. The reason for this is two-fold. Many of us seem to desire uniformity in our furnishings. The manufacturers give us that by basically painting the items or dunking metal plated items in a chemical tank. Easy, cheap, and uniform. Just what we want, Right? Oh, and very profitable for this “premium” finish.
If the look of aged real metal is desired, you will have to accept that aging and patina are not uniform and will differ from item to item. 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 older city. Beautiful! But certainly not cookie-cutter! For a little more, just click to go to our “patina” blog posts Part I and Part II.
Here is how the craftsman does it. Beginning with metal, or a finish comprised of real metal, chemicals are applied that alter 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 naturally patina in their own way and show wide differences of color depending on such variables as salt air, pollution, and temperature. Brown tones as well as greens, blacks, and blue often show on Bronze, Brass, and Copper.
The skilled patinator works their magic to produce these natural colors without waiting a couple of centuries for the patina to develop. At Atlas Signs and Plaques, our brown toned finishes are called Copper Patina, Bronze Patina, or Brass Patina. Our finishes with greens and blues are called Copper Verdi and Bronze Verdi. To give the natural look, we hand rub the highlights revealing the beauty, luster, and life of our real metal finishes.