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French furniture: Styles
Decorations of furniture / Materials
Stamps of Cabinet-makers masters at the XVth century and their typical furniture

GILDING
Gilding techniques differ according to the material to which they are applied.

Spiral wooden sculpture.
Doc J. Perrin

Characteristic decor with pine cone and a quadrilobed flower, gilt -leaf on red plate.
Doc J. Perrin

Fluted chair leg with assembly block - typical of the period. Doc Gismondi
Louis XVI giltwood

"Noeud de ruban" bed head


Gilding wood: the woods used are generally oak and lime which are sculpted, polished and covered with pieces of gold leaf just a few microns thick and about 8 cm long. Before the gold leaf is applied, the wood is covered with a very fine plaster mixture diluted in soft water and with a red or yellow clay found in suspension in the water of certain rivers. This mixture is called the "plate"; the goldleaf sticks to it without glue and is put into place using a special bristle brush. The leaf is adhered, polished and burnished using a horn-shaped agate stone. In 17th and 18th century "rocaille" decors, furniture was made entirely from sculpted and leaf-gilded wood: consoles, tables, decorative columns and capitals, cherubs and cupids, lighting... Substitutes have been studied in an attempt to imitate giltwood with pastes set in moulds. These have been used to make fragile sculptures covered in goldleaf.
Gilding silver and bronze : gilt silver has existed since antiquity. The technique was the same as for gilt bronze - a mixture of mercury and powdered gold were applied to the object to be gilded, this was then heated in a fire and the mercury evaporated leaving the gold in place. Like gold leaf, the object was then worked with an agathe or hematite burnisher. Any sub-standard parts were recovered with a gilt-like varnish. From 1827, gilding by electrolysis took over. 
Gilding glass : on glass, gilding is always done cold, on the surface or between two layers of glass. Different techniques are used depending whether the gilder uses gold as leaf, powder or in suspension.
Gilding leather: various gilts can be used to mark leather with gold. The most common is cold gilding where barely heated irons are applied to wet leather. A piece of goldleaf inserted in between enables many different patterns to be attained. Some gilders use a plaque which is as big as the decoration itself. In France, this type of "cold decor" dates from the Middle Ages.