Gilding

Stevens Furniture Restoration offers a complete service for gilding furniture and the restoration of gilded antique furniture.

What is gilding?

The gilding process of covers a range of decorative techniques of applying fine gold leaf or powder to solid surfaces such as wood, stone or metal to give a thin coating of gold.

Gold leaf gilding is a traditional and specialist craft, originally used in decorative calligraphy. Gilding is related with the French Baroque style, but gold leaf Gilding in particular has been applied to wood furniture since the time of the ancient Egyptians.

Why choose Stevens Furniture upholsterers London?

These techniques are employed especially in frame-making, furniture restoration, decorative painting and interior decoration. Among many forms of this technique, the most popular today are oil and water gilding, which are both very different processes and offer very different results as explained below.

Water gilding is a more complex process, whose main feature is that the gold can be burnished to give high reflectivity. Oil gilding cannot be burnished, although when suitably executed it can produce a semi-gloss result. Only oil gilding is water resistant and so can be used outside. Both of these techniques are employed at Stevens Furniture Restoration London we use them both efficiently according to the specific project.

Water gilding involves a considerable amount of surface preparation including a ground layer of gesso (a mixture of rabbit-skin glue and whiting) followed by a coloured gesso-clay called bole which provides the adhesive and an underlying color for the gold. The surface must be perfectly prepared by scraping and or burnishing. The area to be gilded is then wetted with water by brushing in small areas, which dissolves a small amount of the glue in the bole and provides adhesion for the gold leaf, which is applied immediately.

The raised surfaces are then burnished to bring out a brilliant smooth finish often associated with Baroque period mirror frames and furniture. This is by the more prestigious process and requires more technical skill and knowledge. Stevens furniture restoration has undertaken various gilding projects in the past mainly on period frames wether it be minor restoration or completely re-gilding.

Oil gilding is the process of using an oil-based size or ‘mordant’ to adhere the gold leaf to the surface. There are different ways to make this process and a wide selection of metals is used including gold, platinum, silver, copper and aluminium.

Oil gilding is without doubt an easier process than water gilding, and in theory you can oil gild any object that you can paint, even though especially fitting for metal objects or objects that are to be outside in the elements.

Can I perform Gilding myself with the right materials?

A gilding cushion and a gilding knife are the only main requirements. The other materials are: Vaseline, cotton wool, pumic powder and glair (adhesive).

Imitation gold leaf is sometimes used, which is slightly thicker than 23 carat gold leaf, but the difference in handling these two is considerable.

There is not a great deal of equipment required to be able to gild successfully, but handling the gold leaf can be a problem for the inexperienced.

How do Stevens Furniture London perform Gilding restoration?

It is common, on close inspection, for furniture items to have been coated in gold paint (often bronze powder), and have consequently begun to develop a green hue.

Our process is to strip the paint off, usually to find the original gold leaf gilding underneath. We would then reseal the gilded surface and re-gild the missing areas with an appropriate matching gold leaf.

We always find out what the client requires before proceeding with any work.

What furniture items can I bring for reupholstery?

Matthew Stevens’ team is composed of expert gilders, who are experienced with gilding all kinds of furniture and restoring antique gilded furniture, a process that requires a high level of skill and patience.

Where can I see examples of Stevens Furniture Restoration London’s gilding?

Please see our gallery page for examples of our gilding work with clients.

How do I get in touch?

PLEASE CONTACT US FOR A QUOTATION IF YOU REQUIRE ANY SERVICES RELATED TO GILDING, WATER GILDING, OIL GILDING.