Gavin Douglas Fine Antiques Ltd.

Fine Antique Clocks & Decorative Gilt Bronze

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

So what is so special about ormolu?
Whereas electro-plating gives a one dimensional bland finish to the gilded bronze, ormolu or “fire-gilding” gives an infinitely more subtle and complex finish to the piece. The layer of gold is much thicker, more than one layer can be added to give a really deep and rich colour. The depth of gold allows the Graveur to add texture on top of the gilding without cutting through to the bronze. The extra thickness allows for deeper burnishing to the piece and acid etching for a matt finish. Electro-plating has nothing of the depth, texture and variety of colour that ormolu imparts to an object.

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What is ormolu?
Generally held to be the result of the application of a layer of pure gold dust to bronze using mercury and high temperature to fix the gold to the bronze. This is a completely different finish to the modern method of electro-plating which applies a very thin layer of gold.

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When was ormolu used?
From ancient times. However its greatest popularity in Europe was from the mid 18th century to about 1840 corresponding to the Romantic Period in France and the beginning of the Victorian period in England.

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Who were the best exponents of ormolu?
The 18th and early 19th century French craftsmen are generally acknowledged to be the finest gilders and chasers, artists such as Saint-Germain, Caffieri, Thomire, Ravrio, Vallee, Osmond, Vion, Gouthiere and Francois Remond to name but a few. Sweden and Russia used much ormolu and in England Mathew Boulton and Vulliamy are perhaps the most well known and famous craftsmen.

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Why all the fuss about re-gilding?
Well who really wants a 21st century finish on an 18th or 19th century clock or object? Apart from being a very inferior finish it has absolutely nothing to do with the artist who created the piece in the first place. Usually original fine ormolu can be cleaned perfectly well and there is no need for re-gilding. Personally I would prefer 5 or 10% original gilding and the rest rubbed back to bronze than 100% re-gilding.

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Why is original gilding so important?

On fine ormolu objects, whether from the 17th and 18th century, Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI periods and onwards to the French Directoire and Empire periods in France right up to the 3rd quarter of the 19th century and the same in England where ormolu was popular in the neo-classical period of Adams and Hope through to the English Regency period and beyond gilding was applied in one way only, by fire or mercury gilding.

So when you buy an object from this period it is important that it should have this finish and not a later poor imitation. No-one would dream of paying the same money for a fine painting that had been completely overpainted in the 20th century as they would for one with every brushstroke intact so why would you wish to buy an 18th or early 19th century object with a poor 20th or 21st century finish?

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Is my purchase going to be safe?

We do all our packing in house, Debbie and I usually do it together. However good commercial packers are they never seem to be as careful as we are. Light weight objects are initially packed in tissue paper, wrapped again in bubble wrap, placed in a cardboard box and filled with bubble or polystyrene shells to take up any space. It is then usually placed within an outer cardboard box and the same procedure followed.

Heavier items have a bespoke wooden crate made for them, usually 6 inches larger in every direction than the tissue and bubble wrapped object. This is to allow us to use a minimum of 2 inches and anything up to 6 inches of foam to line the box with. The object is then inserted and any void filled with polystyrene shells so that there is no possiblity of any movement within the crate during transit.

Almost every object is airfreighted using FEDEX International Priority Service which is quick and reliable and also allows us to email the client with a tracking number so that they can view the progress of their purchase from the time it leaves us until it arrives at it's destination.

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What about the paperwork?
Almost all our objects are antique,  and as antiques are usually imported throughout the world without attracting duty. Some pieces such as Art Deco objects for example are clearly not. Our invoices which are sent with each piece together with the FEDEX waybill make this clear and working closely with FEDEX means that all paperwork is taken care of for you.

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