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Yet Another Post about Steel vs. Brass

November 15, 2018

There is intrinsic beauty in the brass faucets we see around shops and houses. The design flexibility that casting can give to architect is wonderful.

The Swan the Alessi team has designed for HANSA, just to name one, is simply stunning and anyone can see that and in fact, it won a design award.


And the several finish options available - a must-need, as brass as it is would be possibly beautiful to some (think of an old saxophone) but way too unpractical (think again of the old saxophone and add water to it).

“I can hear it coming, Luca, come on, say it: but…”


You do know me, don’t you?

Yes. There’s a “but”, as there is one in most things.


There is - to name one -  the industrial difficulty of handling and casting the brass (while keeping it economically worth) that has made this an art and Italy the country with the widest and deepest expertise and the most companies working on this industry.

But I'm going to write today about something entirely different: why steel has a way much lower environmental impact than brass.


In fact, using stainless steel allows designer for a quick change of ideas, sampling and redesigning is as easy as to create the computer schematics and send it over to the laser machine. The assisted bending and the computer-controlled welding give to companies in this industry both great control and flexibility over production lots and prices.

And one can get the steel sheet already PVD coated (gold, bronze, matte black) or brushed to desire, and can be further treated by applying power coating or enamel. And, of course, it comes polished to a mirror effect with no need for "chrome" galvanic processing.


Plus, it is way much more environment-friendly.


Mostly, for a three main reasons!

  • Stainless Steel is 100% recyclable, that is it can be used to create steel from scratch.


    • In fact, today's steel is mostly made out of:
      - 40 % new raw material
      The remaining 60% is:
      - 35% new scrap material derived from the production process
      - 25% old scrap material derived from dismissed products

      So, that's a great point: steel is to metal what paper is to... well, to paper.
      In fact, it's even better: to create steel from recycled scraps only takes 1/4 (25%) of the energy needed to create it anew, whereas recycled paper plants need 70% of the energy needed to create a new roll of paper (I still vouch for recycled paper a lot).
      That isn't the case if you have it coated with some finish, of course, hence the difference with brass products.

  • Stainless Steel requires less energy and material to extract the raw ingredients.

    • Iron is needed to create steel: 1 to 2.5 kg of ore will get you about 500 g of iron and only using 20 - 30 MJ/kg.


    • Brass is a copper and zinc alloy and if the former is surprisingly bad environmentally - partly because it's increasingly scarce and every kg of copper requires nowadays about 200 - 2,000 kg of ore and partly because it's toxic in river and lakes - the latter is... even worse with an even higher eco-toxicity.​
      (Please, note that it is not toxic to people, just to aquatic beasties and plants).

      So, with Steel you are basically getting more raw material at a lower energy cost. We all love that, and the planet will thank you.

  • Finally, you can count on the fact that Stainless Steel will come to you already shiny even more shiny than the chromed brass. Galvanization is really nasty on the environment, by the way, and the effect on lakes is all well documented.

So, my friend, now you've got one more reason to go Stainless Steel when thinking of your next shower head or shower panel product lines. Or bath-tub spouts or jacuzzi waterfalls.

Unless you find somethin in Brass that you really like, because we too get something, sometimes, jut because it's soooo beautiful.

Stay green, choose steel.


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