Water gilding is a traditional gilding technique that involves applying a thin deposit of gold onto a surface using water and a binder. It is typically used on objects such as frames, furniture, and decorative accents.
To achieve water gilding, the surface to be gilded is first prepared by smoothing and priming it with a layer of gesso or another suitable base. Next, a layer of adhesive, known as gilders liquor, is applied to the primed surface. This liquor is typically made of water mixed with a binder such as gum arabic or gelatin.
Once the gilders liquor has dried to a tacky state, the gold leaf is carefully applied onto the surface. The gold leaf is typically thin and delicate, requiring gentle handling to prevent damage. The leaf is pressed onto the tacky adhesive layer using a gilding brush or gentle pressure from a specialized tool called a gilders tip.
After the gold leaf is applied, it is left to dry and adhere to the surface. Once dry, the excess gold leaf is carefully brushed away, leaving a thin layer of gold on the gilded surface. This can be done using a soft brush or a specialized tool called a gilders mop.
In the case of ormolu mounts, which are decorative bronze or brass accents often found on furniture or decorative objects, water gilding can be used to apply a thin layer of gold onto these mounts. The process is similar to water gilding on other surfaces, but care must be taken to ensure that the adhesive and gold leaf adhere properly to the metal surface.
It is worth noting that historically, some water gilding techniques involved the use of mercury to assist with the adhesion of gold. However, the use of mercury in water gilding is now highly discouraged due to its hazardous nature and potential health risks.
Overall, water gilding is a meticulous and time-consuming process that requires skill and precision. It is often used to achieve a high-quality, lustrous finish on decorative elements, emphasizing the beauty and value of the gilded object.