Antique Furniture Carving and Gilding Restoration, Renovation and Repair
As part of Green & Cockburn's vast antique restoration expertise, we are able to undertake gilding in oil and water on gesso and clay. We also undertake the restoration of clock cases and metal items by using the traditional skills of fire and mercury gilding. We can also gild by using electrolysis.
Gilded objects such as an antique mirror or picture frame are damaged relatively easily if they are knocked. Gilding can also discolour and wear over time.
The process of gilding, particularly on antique gilded mirrors and picture frames, involves hours of intensive work in order to replicate various designs and seamlessly repair damages.
Our workshop is fully equipped for oil or water gilding and restoration using traditional methods and materials.
We also undertake gilding of metal surfaces, many of these surfaces were originally fire gilded using Mercury
Whilst we can restore pieces using mercury, it is preferable to use the similar process of electroplating.
Below you can see some of our recent gilding of a fine French Ormolu clock.
This clock came into our workshop in a distressed state. The once missing wing on the butterfly has been remade by lost wax casting and then replaced, the clock has been gilded too.
Antique furniture and clocks often include decorative carving, and it is these parts that suffer from wear
and tear the most.
We at Green & Cockburn restore damaged areas by carving onto replacement timber to restore the piece's original look and feel. We carry out relief and incised carving to the highest standard.
We pride ourselves in what we call invisible repairs which remain undetectable even to the expert eye. We also ensure that the original design and concept of the piece remains intact.
Examples of Gilded Antique Furniture, Mirrors and Picture Frame Restoration Work
Two finely carved and gilded pier mirrors circa 1690
We have recently restored two pier mirrors (circa 1690). These two mirrors came into our workshop in an absolutely appalling condition. The gold had deteriorated to such a degree that it was hard to tell the gold from the later painted bronze finish, which had been applied during the Victorian period.
Below you can see the two mirrors in question. The mirror on the left was missing the gesso decoration at the bottom, and the one on the right has sections of gold and gesso missing from the round spears on either side. Both mirrors were in dire need of restoration as most of the gesso was loose. Below, on the right, you can see a photograph of the two finished gilded pier mirrors.
To restore these mirrors:
- First all loose gesso, gold and broken sections of acanthus leaf detail were removed. Any loose or broken areas were then glued (the glue used was animal glue as per the original construction).
- Missing sections of the acanthus foliage had to be made from lime as per the original.
- When the substrate was firm and all parts had been successfully glued, the two mirrors
were cleaned to remove any of the old and distressed gold.
Gesso was then reapplied to the missing areas. In some places this was applied fairly thickly. This was then carved, cut back and smoothed.
- The next stage was to apply the clay bole. This clay is used under gold leaf so that the gold can be burnished. This process is done using tools such as agate stones.
- When the clay has been laid, this again has to be carved and smoothed following the original carver's design. This needs to be smoothed so that when the gold is laid, it resembles solid gold.
- The gold is then relaid with rabbit skin glue and carefully and tampered with cotton wall.
- After a while, the gold is burnished to a high sheen. At this stage, the mirrors look rather new, and an an ageing process begins by using natural minerals, such as raw umber, in areas where age would normally show.
Below, you can see an image of one side a mirror after the gilding process had been completed. Both mirrors spears have been repaired and finished.
You can see the fine detail on one of the crests after restoration work. The completed item should look as though it has been carved from solid gold.
17th Century French Cushion Mirror
We were recently asked to restore a particularly fine but damaged, French 17th-century cushion mirror.
These mirrors are generally composed of a wooden background, where sections of mirrored glass are laid with highly intricate mouldings and carvings. In this particular case the mirror had pressed floral work made from brass which had then been gilded.
As you can see, the mirror was in a distressed state. Missing sections of the floral corner patterns can be seen.
The missing floral work had to be replaced by using copper and brass sheets hammered into remaining floral work which was then used as a copy.
Below is a picture of the original floral pattern which was broken in various places.
These floral sections were made by compressing copper over a carved oak substrate, and then attached to the main body of the item. This was done with lead as per the original process.
The moulding is made from ebony which is profoundly difficult to work with. If you look at the moulding carefully, you can see that it has horizontal and vertical cut lines interposing one another. This makes it tricky and quite difficult to reproduce.
You can also see the condition of the original brass work, and a corner of where the missing gilded floral work should be.
Below you can see images of the fully restored mirror.
The mirror restoration is complete. The missing gilded sections have been remade and parts of the ebony moulding have been restored.
Below you can see the detail involved in the manufacturer of one of the corner mounts.
Gilded Frame Circa 1800
This fine frame came into our workshop damaged and broken as it had fallen from the wall.
- The frame had to be taken apart for its repair. The original corners had to be broken as the nails holding them were bent.
- Broken parts were then glued back together using animal glue. Missing segments of gesso were made and applied to the frame. Any cracks that had appeared in the frame from general age are were also repaired at this stage.
- In the images above you can see the broken frame.
- After the missing segments had been applied and new gesso was made and fixed, clay was added to the surface of the frame so that it could be burnished.
- The gold (which is 23 1/2 carat) is then added using rabbit skin glue. This is a time-consuming process as every section of the frame needs to be covered.
- When the glue is dry the gilded frame can be burnished using an agate stone.
Below you can see some sections of the newly gilded frame.
Restoration of Two 17th-century Pier Glasses
Here are two rather fine 17th-century pier glasses with fitted candle sconces. The gilding on these frames were worn overtime. There were many splits and sections of the gilding that were missing.
Below you can see pictures of the pier glasses prior to restoration.
- The restoration process involved removing the mercury covered glasses to repair the splits in the frame with animal glue.
- The next stage was to remove any old gold work and gesso, when this is finished, new gesso can be made and relaid.
- When the gesso has dried it needs to be carved back into the shape as required.
- Next, clay is made and laid on to the gesso. This is then dried and the clay is carved back to show the frame as it should be. It is then gilded.
Here you can see a picture of one of the frames during mid-restoration. The glass framework has been repaired, the gesso and clay applied, and the outer decorative area has been gilded.
You can see a picture here of both of the finished pier glasses.
We would be more than happy to show you examples of our gilding and carving work on antique furniture on
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Tel : 01462 790646 or E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org