As I’ve mentioned before: I love antiques but, in particular, my heart skips a beat when I see European antiques — French finds in particular. Years ago, I discovered a gilt Rococo-inspired wall clock at a flea market. The clock face looked to be from the ’60s but the surrounding frame was hand-carved wood with applied gold leaf and appeared to be much older. At the time, I lived in Los Angeles and really had no use for it so it languished, forgotten, in my parents’ North Carolina basement for a decade until I rediscovered it. And, let me tell you, it was a very happy reunion indeed. I had recently purchased a round needlepoint of violets at an estate sale without a frame. Once I popped out the ’60s clock, I thought the Rococo frame and sweet, little needlepoint would make a happy pair.
And so they did:
There are many names for gold objects: gilded, gilt, gold-leaf, doré (French for gold) and ormolu. They all pretty much mean the same thing, except for ormolu — true ormolu objects are gilt bronze pieces that are quite rare and valuable. From the French or moulu (literally ground gold), the process used to create the gold finish required specialized craftsmen who finely ground high-carat gold, mixed it with mercury then coated the bronze with the mixture before subjecting it to extreme heat in a kiln. The mercury was burned off, leaving behind a flawlessly smooth layer of gold. Unfortunately, the mercury fumes were toxic, prompting the French government to outlaw the use of mercury in the 1830s. So, any true ormolu objects (typically clocks, chandeliers or decorative mounts on furniture or fine porcelain) are now almost two centuries old. And, there you go, your antiques lesson for the day.
Here’s a wider shot of my bedroom and the frame. I love how the violets play off other pops of purple in the room — plus, gold is my metallic accent of choice so the frame fits right in:
Just for fun, here’s a photo of my little golden girl, Sophie, who couldn’t resist a good photo-bomb: