The Old Horse-Brasses

An interesting little sideline in the history of brass, which has a special relation to the 18th Century, is the manufacture of horse-brasses. These were either made of lead covered with brass or from hand-hammered and cut brass; some of the older ones were also in precious metals. Horse-brasses occur in great variety: over 1,200 different designs are known. The basis of the design is usually a ring or circle within which stars, half-moons, camels, birds, unicorns and many other figures are enclosed. The origin of horse-brasses is extremely old; according to the specialist collector, Mr. H. S. Richards, bronze horse 'brasses' were made two thousand years ago. They were originally amulets and were intended to ward off sickness or accident. Now they repose proudly in cabinets; a few appear at horse-shows, but most of these specimens are modern.