[Yorkshire Rose & Lancashire Rose]

Yorkshire Rose & Lancashire Rose

[1977 Queens Jubilee Brass]

1977 Queens Jubilee Brass

[A rare kangaroo & emu set ]

A rare kangaroo & emu set

History of Horse Brasses

History Of Horse Brasses:

Horse brasses probably originate from amulets of ancient times. The earliest types are circular or crescent shaped. These were followed by geometric designs based on the rays of the sun. The origin of these ornaments is the ancient belief in the power of the "evil eye". As evil was associated with darkness, light was regarded as the antidote. Therefore, the classic designs were related to sun worship. Old prints have horses adorned with brasses as early as 1685. Horse brasses have also been found that date back 2,000 years. It is unknown whether it was gypsies who first brought the brasses to England or if it was an influence brought back from the crusades. Brass was not cast in England until the early 1800's. Therefore, all early brasses were hand made.

Hand Made Brasses:

The first horse brasses were made from hand-hammered sheets of brass known as latten. Using the latten brass, the early makers of horse brasses worked out patterns of their choice and cut, filed and hammered the brass to get the desired shape. The hammer marks show clearly on the back of the brasses. The designs were simple and small.

Cast Brasses:

Cast brasses were first seen about 1825. As demand grew, specialist workers in metal started to produce finely made brasses. Many were made to order.
Brasses are cast by, first, pressing a wood pattern into foundry sand in groups. The impressions are joined by short cavities to allow the molten metal to reach each impression. The piece of metal joining each brass is called a "get". These are often at the hanger and are trimmed off in the finishing process. The brasses also have two projections cast into the back which allowed for the brasses to be held in a vice during finishing. These are normally filed off; otherwise, they would damage the harness.
The city of Walsall, Staffordshire (N.W. of Birmingham), England, had many small brass foundries which cast buckles and harness fittings as well. Stanley Bros. of Walsall, was established in 1832 and still remains. In the beginning, manufacturers borrowed each others designs. It wasn’t until 1842 that a diamond shape registration mark appeared to guard their designs.

Stamped Brasses:

The stamping of brasses started about 1880. This required the production of a metal die which was quite expensive and only done by a few manufacturers. Stamping of brasses ceased about the end of World War I.

Horse Brasses Today:

Newly manufactured brasses are usually a result of casting because of the lower production cost. Nickel and German silver (brass with a little silver added) has also been used for making decorative pieces on harness.


Circle: were the easiest to start with. They, frequently, had a raised area in the centre and were often regarded as representing the sun.
Crescent: is one of the oldest designs seen. It was used with the points upwards or downwards or as a triple design (three crescents with points in three directions). The crescent was also used to frame other designs.
Heart: The heart is a common design, either plain or with a Staffordshire Knot. The Knot is associated with the badge of the City of Walsall.
Star: Star-shaped brasses are relatively uncommon. In North Wales, the 5 point star was most common but 6 and 7 point stars were also found.
Heraldic Designs: Heraldic brasses include those which depict a lion, horse, stag, eagle, owl, martin, partridge, cockerel, phoenix, swan, dog, fox, ram, anchor or sailing ship.
Traders Motifs and Private Brasses: Individual professional groups had their own designs:
• the timber traders with crossed saws, tree, and acorn designs
• millers with wheat sheaf, windmill, and sack
• breweries with barrels
• railway companies with their own designs.
Commemorative Brasses: Commemorative brasses were very popular, especially those celebrating Queen Victoria’s reign. Brasses were also struck for Churchill and Victory 1939-1945
Location Brasses: Modern souvenir horse brasses are sold with the names and designs of local tourist locations in the United Kingdom.
Award Brasses: Merit brasses were given out by the RSPCA to acknowledge the quality of care of horse, harness and vehicles. More about these in a moment.

The National Horse Brass Society (based in England) was set up to support the hobby of horse brass collecting, and has members from all over the world.

Posted by Amanda on January 9, 2011 06:59 PM