Fire gilding

A gilding method used in decorative arts and crafts in the past and which is now banned due to the associated toxic fumes. Fire gilding is something you encounter in antique objects that have a characteristic satin golden finish.

It is the chemical process for applying a coat of gold to another metal by coating the surface with an amalgam of mercury and gold. Then you heat the object and the mercury vaporises. The result is then treated with Gilders wax and a paste of salts and ammonia to heighten the yellow-golden lustre.

This technique belongs to one of the oldest ways to gild art, and is also known as amalgam gilding and wash gilding.

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