Hey, I just have two goals: play it as much as I can, keep it looking new as long as I can (without any doing any permanent modifications or anything goofy like wearing gloves.)
<1950s Sci-Fi computer voice on> Your expectations are incompatible with your goals...bbzzztt.
To paraphrase the popular song - the first scratch is the deepest.
If you use a horn it'll show signs of wear, and how much wear it shows depends on the type of finish - and to some extent, the make of the horn.
Lacquer isn't that tough, so will start to wear before a plated finish - and some companies use tougher lacquer than others (Yamaha lacquer seems to be about the toughest).
In the end though, all well-played horns will show signs of wear and end up looking a bit shabby. Indeed, this is the driving force behind the currently popular 'antique' or 'vintage' finish option - makes the horn look like it's been around a bit.
...which makes me think...perhaps the next step will be to sell horns with the finish carefully polished off in selected areas only....
Glueing things over the affected areas never seems to work that well - and more often than not it goes all gooey and makes a mess. Applying secondary coats of lacquer or varnish seldom works well for any length of time either, and often ends up making things look a whole lot worse.
There is a possible solution, you could try making some custom 'socks' from Sugru.
This would work quite well, though the drawback is that it would raise the height of your finger. This is fine if that's the intention (such as with palm key risers) but I doubt you'd want that on your octave key thumb rest.
Still, with a bit of care you could make a sock that's quite thin on the top...though I don't know how much wear it would take.
It wouldn't cost a lot to find out, and it wouldn't do any harm to the finish.
Wear on the pearls :shock:
The mark of a saxophone Jedi knight.
Actually it's a bit of a gamble as to whether the key pearls will wear or not. I've seen horns that have been used by pros for longer than I've been alive - some have worn pearls, some don't. I guess it's down to how acidic or rough the player's skin is.
If you play the sax long enough you'll reach the status of a Guru - at which point your fingers will start to wear through the metal itself.
My advice would be to forget about the wear marks and accept them as reminders of how much playing you've done - and buy some key oil instead...because you'll need it.