Not to worry. Let’s tackle those aspects one at a time, simplify everything, and explore them with a sense of adventure. A little time spent up front on research will more than repay you in many years of delighted use from the right faucet.
For years and years every kitchen had chrome, chrome, and nothing but chrome for the finish on a kitchen faucet. Lucky for us, there are now a dozen different finishing materials used. That includes bronze for that Victorian look, nickle for a subtle but contemporary appearance, and stainless steel for the industrial style that remains popular.
There’s also gold, brass, and modern alloys whose names may change from manufacturer to manufacturer. Included among the “modern” you might have seen something called a “PVD” faucet. That acronym stands for a fancy phrase: physical vapor deposition. Metallic atoms are coated gradually onto the substrate in the form of a gas.
You don’t need to care about the science involved. Just know that it produces a very durable coating that will stick forever. PVD finishes tend to resist scratching, corrosion, and make for a surface that will clean up like new for many years. They’re typically 20 times more scratch-resistant than chrome.
On the other hand, some manufacturers will deliberately forego that coating in order to achieve a certain effect. Hand-rubbed bronze is meant to age gracefully. Over time, you may see a slight greenish patina on some, just like an old statue. That can actually add to the appeal of the appearance.
And, of course, chrome is still available and looking better than ever.
Those faucet finishes are carefully plated onto materials on the interior that keep the faucet working flawlessly for years and years. Brass is the most common one for the tube and internal pipes. Brass itself comes in two types: cast and tubular. The first is usually thicker and stronger but both work well.
Beyond the basic tubing, ceramic or diamond-coated valves are an essential part of the whole as well. They come in different types too: compression, ball, cartridge, and ceramic disk.
Compression valves are used for faucets with separate hot and cold controls. Ball valves are part of single-lever faucets. Cartridges typically employ both brass and plastic and are more reliable than mere washers. Ceramic disk valves use two finely-made disks that slide past one another; they’re generally the most reliable and long-lasting, if a bit more expensive.