When the Bees Come a-Knockin’ – All About Door Knockers


A picture of a bee door knocker


The door knocker has come an extraordinarily long way from its conception by the Ancient Greeks in Athens. The very earliest design of a heavy cast iron ring attached to a backplate is said to have been developed as a safety measure. Previously, guests would announce their arrival using a bar on a chain attached to the door to knock, which could be used as a weapon against the householder. A slave could easily be chained to the ring, preventing them from absconding or wandering off, and the ring itself could function as both a door knocker and handle. Quite the advancement! And such an excellent design that many beautiful door knockers are made in the classic ring and backplate design to this day.

For front door knocker ideas, the surprisingly rich history of this little piece of door furniture offers bountiful inspiration. After the original cast iron ring and plate design took off in Greece, like with most Ancient Grecian innovations the Romans then took it across the continent. Gaining popularity in use across the empire, the design remained relatively consistent for centuries. That was until the Renaissance changed everything. Backplates steadily became more elaborate, until by the fifteenth century the humble door knocker had graduated to become a work of art in its own right.

A picture of a door knocker on a backplate

European Flourish Meets English Heraldry

Italy, Germany and England led the door knocker revolution, brass and bronze became the materials of choice, and mere functionality took a back seat. Now symbolism, aesthetics and the display of wealth, status and taste were the key considerations. Blacksmiths needed to also be artists and sculptors, and accordingly the craftsmanship seen on surviving door knockers from this period is often truly exquisite.

Venetian designs were especially ornate, with knockers formed from nymphs, dolphins, and grotesque Commedia dell’Arte-type masks. Similar to gargoyle designs in England, these were said to drive away evil spirits with their hideous visages. Protection of the household was a key theme, with Hand of Fatima-inspired knockers serving the same function especially popular in Mediterranean and Muslim countries.

Meanwhile across the Channel, England had really taken to the door knocker with enthusiasm. Heraldry provided much of the design inspiration, and to this day the iconic brass lion door knocker remains a very popular choice. The lion has long been a symbol of pride, bravery, courage, strength, and protection, and of England itself. Said to grant the home its blessings and guardianship, it’s little surprise this door knocker design is the one emblazoned on the front door of 10 Downing Street!

By the Georgian period door knockers were ubiquitous, and the doctor’s door knocker style sprang up as an especially loud-sounding and distinctive option for the front doors of medical professionals. Giving the public insight into where to find medical attention, this design became synonymous with the wealth and authority of the profession. Elegant and streamlined, this air of class has meant the doctor’s door knocker style remains popular to this day.

A Front Door Knocker for Every Home and Taste

Regarding the question ‘what are door knockers made out of’, times have not changed much. The vast majority of door knockers are still made of brass, but developments in modern manufacturing processes mean some of the wildest design ideas can now be realised. Function is less of a priority thanks to doorbells, but the door knocker remains popular as an expression of taste, personal style, and even hobbies or interests. Symbolism retains a serious role in designs too, as with our bumble bee door knockers, representing industry, health, vitality and prosperity. Strong blessings with which to furnish the threshold to your home!

With 3D printing the most intricate details can be worked into moulds before the brass is cast. Modern metallurgy techniques allow for every finish imaginable, from aged bronze to pewter to chrome. Even something as specific as a silver bee door knocker can now be yours at the click of a button. Our wonderfully intricate designs, including our hare brass hare door knocker, are all cast in solid brass, and come in a range of designs and finishes to suit every home and taste. Whatever era and style of door knocker appeals to you, here at Brass Bee we are confident you will find a design you truly love.

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