Your guide to metallic tap finishes
Polished brass is a solid brass which has been polished to a shiny finish. It might also have a clear protective film applied, or have been chemically sealed. Polished brass looks amazing against dark colours.
The English bath filler on standpipes with floorplate by Catchpole & Rye.
Satin brass is solid brass (like polished above) but with a satin or brushed finish. It might also have a clear protective film applied, or have been chemically sealed.
Oil-rubbed bronze is copper plated over a steel or brass substrate and then another brown finish is plated over that. A lot of manufacturers may pre-rub the brown in spots so that you see the copper, some manufacturers will only plate the item in the brown and not rub at all so that you see only a solid brown color. Hence items with this finish can vary in colour (from chocolate brown to almost black) and from manufacturer to manufacturer. Because of these variances, it would be best to buy your whole bathroom brassware set from the same manufacturer.
'Loft' wall mounted bath set by The Watermark Collection.
Copper is fairly easy to find and also has the ability to "heal" itself - Over a short period of time, a scratch in copper will become darker and eventually blend with the patina. A shiny copper finish might require a little more maintenance than brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze and chrome, but if you let it age naturally, copper will develop a beautiful patina. It's harder to match accessories and other fixtures to copper, and it's not as durable as other finishes. Looks great in dark colour schemes.
Polished nickel is the plating of nickel onto a suitable substrate, often brass. Nickel has all the durability of chrome, but scratches and water spots show a little less. It also provides a slightly softer, warmer look than chrome.
Polished nickel bath filler by William Holland.
Brushed (or satin) nickel is produced in the same way as above, but with a satin or brushed finish.