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What is gilding?

There are two processes of gilding. One called “oil gilding” and the other older and more traditional method of “water gilding”. Mahogany by Hand offers both.

Water gilding is the process of laying 23ct pure gold leaf on the furniture. This is a very painstaking and laborious process that entails many layer of “gesso” being applied to the furniture. The gesso must be rubbed down to a glass like finish after, in most cases, re-carving the furniture piece, as the gesso fills all the fine carving detail.

Following this process, the gilder lays “bole” (extremely expensive French coloured clay) over the areas to be later highlighted by burnishing.

It is at this stage the actual gold is overlayed and then hand burnished with agate stone to impart the lustrous pure gold shine that water gilding is so well known for.

The other method of oil gilding is far less, but still labour intensive. It is cheaper and quicker than water gilding and uses “Dutch leaf” (brass leaf) instead of pure gold. The leaf looks just the same but comes in larger, thicker sheets and is easier to handle.

The furniture is first coated with gold size and left to tack off. Once the gold size has the correct tackiness, the leaf is overlaid and left to dry. Once dry it is sealed with orange shellac (French polish) and then an antiquing scumble is wiped over the whole to impart an “antique patina” simulating years of age. Sometimes the leaf may be rubbed through to also simulate wear.

Either method of gilding, be it oil gilding or water gilding, they are both very time consuming tasks that require great skill and patience.

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