Gilding

Gold is one of the few materials whose popularity and demand has never noticeably waned. Like many others, Gosling maintains an enduring fascination with the precious metal and uses Gilding often in our commissions. Gilding is the art of applying a thin layer of metal to an object or surface and while many different metals can be used, gold has always been the preferred material. The basic techniques of gilding have changed little since the earliest times. Although certain basic procedures apply to all types of gilding — for example very careful preparation of the ground to be gilded — there is a wide range of methods and materials used, depending on the nature of the support and the type of object being gilded.

The two main types of gilding used in architectural or furniture decoration are oil or mordant gilding and water gilding. Water gilding gives an extremely refined and elegant finish. This technique is used mainly for decorative objects such as frames, furniture, sculpture, fine art and religious artefacts; but also for the decoration of stately buildings. Each leaf has to be picked up with a gilder’s tip and applied with great care to the intended wetted surface, the water breaks the surface tensions and ‘pulls’ the leaf down onto the surface. The gilding is then burnished with polished agate to achieve a high lustre. Oil gilding is the simplest form of gilding and is mainly used for decorative architectural details, fixed furnishings, and exterior work. The intended surface is coated in a light film of oil (usually linseed) and the leaf is applied on top. Oil gilding cannot be burnished so it can never achieve the shine or depth of water gilding.