Technically speaking, the art of Gilding is the process of giving something a metallic appearance. Even a gold powdered paint would fall into this broad spectrum of “Gilding” as a description.
When we, or anyone else with any knowledge or interest in Fine Furniture refers to Gilding, we refer to Gold-leaf, or metal-leafing. This is the ancient art of applying a thin layer of actual metal(Gold, Silver, Copper, etc.) to either the whole item of furniture, or just the carvings, mouldings, etc.(Parcel-gilt). This ancient art form has been practised for more than 5000 years.
These leaves(sheets) of metal vary in thickness from as little as 0.08 microns in pure gold, to 0.3 microns in a composition leaf(imitation Silver & Gold). To put that into perspective, you could stack 300 000 sheets of pure Gold-leaf one on top of another and would be less than one inch high(25mm).
Imitation Gold-leaf is approximately 3-4 times thicker than pure gold. It is a composition of Copper and Zinc in varying degrees, depending on the colour. A normal imitation Gold-leaf would be 85% Copper and 15% Zinc.
The most common way to apply Gold-leaf, is with a Gold-size(glue). This can be either a water-based, or an oil-based size. We, as do the most professional Gilders around the world, prefer the best French Oil-size. This glue(which is more accurately a varnish), has been manufactured for over 200 years and its formulation and manufacturing process is a closely guarded secret to this day. It is though, without doubt, the best quality size, resulting in the most brilliant appearance to the gilded surface.
The other method of Gilding is the art of water-gilding. This is the most ancient art of gilding, as well as the most difficult and is certainly the most expensive. Only pure Gold can be burnished to a mirror-finish in this method.
It involves many layers of Gesso groundwork. This is made from Whiting(Calcium Carbonate), water and a hide glue(normally Rabbit-skin glue). After smoothing and usually re-carving of the carved detail, the coloured clay Bole is applied. Genuine Gold or Silver-leaf is then applied with a “water” glue, often referred to as “Gilders Liquor”. It is actually a mixture of Water, Alcohol and a Gelatine glue.
The combination of these ancient materials is unsurpassable as the base for this type of Gilding by any modern equivalent! The re-soluble nature of the Rabbit-skin glue, not only allows for inter-coat adhesion of the various coats of Gesso and Clay Bole, but gives a perfect ground to burnish the Gold to a mirror finish. The ancient Egyptians used to use a polished Dogs tooth for this process. This has been replaced by the modern stone burnishing agate.
Here at Glory Furniture, we have the knowledge, expertise and the Artisans to do any and all of these processes. This is a rare commodity in today’s Furniture industry.
As with our finishes, we also have the understanding of which type of Gilding to utilise for any given design, artistic flair, or period-style replication.
At the end of the day, you can rest assured, that Glory Furniture’s Gilders will choose the right type, as well the right tone of Gilding for any given product or project. This could be a bright mirror modern effect, to the rich, subtle opulent glow of an antique Renaissance piece, whereby the brilliance of a solid metal sheet, no matter how distressed and “toned-down” with layers of French enamel varnish, glazes and patinas, will still reflect any available light, so as to impart a feeling of richness and opulence of a bygone age, for a truly luxurious and desirable object!