If there is one thing that you learn in the antiques trade, it is to keep everything as far as possible in its original state and an ormolu finish on a fine antique desk or chest of drawers which gets a lot of wear from owners over time is a prime example of this. As the handles of the chest are continually handled, the gold tends to get rubbed and the bronze comes through.
It is tempting at this stage to get the ormolu re-gilded, but most connoisseurs would prefer as little as 10% of the original gilding left rather than the whole re-guilded. Also modern electro plating creates a one dimensional brassy finish where the original ormolu applied in layers of thin gold gives a much deeper and subtle finish.
It is the worn appearance of the ormolu gilding that fits so well with the patina of the piece of furniture that has accumulated again through age and wear. The original ormolu like the patina grows with this piece of antique furniture and the whole moves on from its original manufacture to something rich in social history. 18th and early 19th century French ormolu was made by master craftsmen considered to be the finest gilders and chasers. These pieces were also made during the French Revolution at a time of great civil unrest, and yet they came through unscathed when many of their aristocratic owners did not.
Fine examples of original ormolu encrusted antique desks and chests of drawers can still be found from London through to Lancashire and beyond.
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