21 Apr 2021
October 9, 2012 - Filed under: Giltwood — Mandy


Giltwood is wood that has gold leaf or gold paint applied to it, a process known as gilding. Some of the best examples of giltwood are the frames that surround paintings.

Giltwood frames are considered valuable in their own right and are collected apart from the paintings they were meant for.

High-quality antique giltwood tables, chests, chairs, architectural detailing and frames are highly prized, sometimes becoming museum pieces.



  • The purpose of gilding is to give the appearance of solid gold, a practice that began over 4,000 years ago in Northern Africa. Paintings from Egyptian tombs from around 2000 B.C.E. show workers pounding gold into thin sheets to apply to pieces of furniture and coffins. The Greeks applied gilding to statues in around 400 B.C.E., and gilding techniques have continued to be used
    in Europe, South America, Spain, Britain and the United States.

    During the 18th century, Louis XIV of France flaunted his wealth with gilded furnishings, framed artwork and architectural detailing, marking France as a leader in the decorative arts.


  • There are two methods of true gilding: oil gilding and water gilding.

    Oil gilding uses an oil-based product on a prepared surface, and the leaf is gently pressed onto the surface.

    Water gilding uses a water-based adhesive that causes the gold leaf to adhere to the surface.

  • If you have piece of giltwood, evaluating its worth involves the condition of its structure, especially tiny holes caused by insects. The gesso layer is a factor; flaking gesso can mean imminent damage. Look closely at the ornamentation. Is any of it showing cracks? This will have an impact on the value. Another important consideration is the finish. Most gold leaf should be at least 23 karats, mixed with small amounts of copper and silver. Watch out for imitations in the form of white gold and bronze powder. These treatments will affect the value


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