Gilding and Replacement Carving, Conservation and Restoration
Gilding is the application of a thin layer of precious metal, usually gold, white gold, or silver to a prepared surface. The technique has remained unchanged in 3700 years, and the artisans who prepared the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun would see little difference in the process today, apart from the mechanical hammers that start the beating of the gold ingot. Gold can be beaten thinner than any other metal, continuing to spread out when others have turned to dust. The modern leaf is thinner than in the past, measuring 80x80 mm it is 1 micron (1/250,000 of an inch) thick.
There are two ways of applying the leaf, named in each case by the applying agent: Oil Gilding and Water Gilding. Oil Gilding can be used in exterior settings but cannot be burnished. Water Gilding, a much more expensive process, cannot be used in exterior settings and can be burnished.
The gesso stage of gilding
A restored 18th century Hall Mirror
The frame of a Della Robbia terracotta plaque
Restoring the stand to an 18th century lacquered cabinet in white gold
Gilding a set of ten Sheraton library chairs
A Victorian state chair
Gilding the day-bed of a marble statue
Since the 14th century with picture framing, and subsequently with the advance in furniture making in the 17th century, wood-carving has been an allied trade to gilding. In restoration carving the aim is to copy the hand of the original carver so that there is no break in the surface form to suggest re-carving.