“Weight is the quickest gauge of value.” This 2004* NYT article by Marco Pasanella about shopping for home fixtures & hardware had me at this fourth paragraph opener. I do this ALL the time – I pick something up and if it weighs heavy in my hand I am halfway to being happy with it. Whether I can afford it is something else entirely, and that’s why the article is very useful by giving some clues to getting quality items without overspending.
I have a little experience with the making of nice things, and I am very picky about buying things. For me, a lot of the choosing is tactile – it comes down to whether the “thing” is pleasurable in the hand. Does it have a good weight? If you drag your fingernail along the edges, does it feel smooth or a bit pitted? Is the finish consistent? Are the little nooks & inside corners smooth? Do the “hidden” faces feel nice? Besides weight, quality mostly comes down to finish** – which is responsible for a lot of the sticker price since the best finishing is done manually by experienced craftsmen (suck it robots!).
*As to the question of why I was reading such an old article – the answer begins with the letter “G“. I have been recently working on the designs for a set of 9 custom steel-and-glass doors for a penthouse in lower Manhattan. The architect specified some gorgeous Nanz Hardware for all the locksets & hinges in his hardware takeoff. Sadly there wasn’t the budget to go this route, but it would have been SO nice to be able to hold some of those Nanz pieces in the hand.
**This is true for non-mechanical items at least (Door pulls, etc). Once you start getting into things that “do work” – hinges, latches, faucets etc – things get a lot more complicated. Generally speaking though, if a piece has first-rate finishing & material, its pretty likely that the mechanical design is reliable.