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Glossary of Gilding Terms

Visit Aedicule to see these terms in use everyday!


Clay mixed with an animal skin glue for application to the surface of an object being prepared for water-gilded. Usually the clay is applied to a gesso surface. It is the clay surface that receives the gold leaf. The clay and rabbit skin glue content dictate the reflective quality of the gold finish. Clay is finer than gesso and when burnished with a tool of hounds tooth, agate or hematite stone its surface becomes more dense and thereby more reflective.


Rubbing a surface with stone or a hard implement condensing the surface andcreating a reflective surface. In gilding, rubbing the clay and/gold surface with a hound's tooth, agate or hematite stone. Burnishing a water-gilt surface produces the most reflective gold surface possible. Burnishing is often employed selectively to enhance decoration by creating depth or accenting architectural aspects of the object. It is the properties of the rabbit skin glue that allow for burnishing. Other glues also have properties that enable burnishing like fish glue and gelatin.

Bronze Powder:

Particles of bronze used as a pigment and mixed with a medium to produce a gold-colored finish. These finishes tarnish due to the copper content of bronze powders. They reflect light differently than leaf, the finishes they produce are thereby grainy in comparison. There are binders that allow some degree of burnishing of very finely ground bronze powders,producing a far less grainy and more reflective finish than regular bronze powders wouldproduce.


The metals mixed with gold in its making change the color of the gold produced. There can be different colors of gold within the same karat. 23kt gold can be a Red Gold, a Rosenoble or a Duketen. Lemon gold was generally a term for gold that was not red. Today it can indicate an 18 karat gold instead of 24 karat gold.

Gilder's Garlic

Garlic juice used as a mordant for gilding. A technique usually found on paper but it is also known to be used on furniture and decoration.

Gilder's Liquor:

A mix of water and alcohol used in water-gilding sometimes with the additionof rabbit skin glue. It is mopped on to the clay surface to activate the glue in the clay before gold leaf is applied. In effect the gold is laid on this liquid surface and then adheres to the clay surface as the water is absorbed.

Gilder's Malt:

A concentrated brew of malt used as a mordant for gilding. It is usually thick inconsistency and can be thinned with water. A mordant usually found in gilding on paper but it is known to have been used on furniture and decoration.


To coat with gold, gold leaf, or a gold-colored substance.


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