AskDefine | Define gilding

Dictionary Definition

gilding n : a coating of gold or of something that looks like gold [syn: gilt]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of gild


  1. The art of applying gold leaf to a surface
  2. Gold leaf
  3. A coating of gold etc

Extensive Definition

Gilding is the art of applying a thin layer of gold, simulated gold, or other metal to a surface. Products employed may be real gold leaf ranging in karats from 9 up to 24; imitation leaf--composition gold, Dutch metal leaf, aluminum leaf, copper leaf; variegated leaf, mica powders; etc.

Ancient practice

According to Herodotus, the Egyptians were accustomed to gilding wood and metals; and gilding by means of gold plates is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. Certain statues of great prestige were chryselephantine, i.e. made of gold-plated wood (for the clothing) and ivory (for the flesh); most famously those of Zeus in Olympia and Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon. Extensive ornamental gilding was also used in the ceiling coffers of the Propylaea. Pliny the Elder informs us that the first gilding seen at Rome was after the destruction of Carthage, under the censorship of Lucius Mummius, when the Romans began to gild the ceilings of their temples and palaces, the Capitol being the first place on which this process was used. But he adds that luxury advanced on them so rapidly that in very little time you might see all, even private and poor people, gild the walls, vaults, and other parts of their dwellings. Owing to the comparative thickness of the gold leaf used in ancient gilding, the traces of it which yet remain are remarkably brilliant and solid.
Gilding has in all times occupied an important place in the ornamental arts of Oriental countries; and the native processes pursued in India at the present day may be taken as typical of the arts as practised from the earliest periods.

Modern gilding processes


Further reading

  • Shretha, Sukra Sagar. "Gold Gilding (A Traditional Craft in Kathmandu Valley)." Ancient Nepal - Journal of the Department of Archeology, Number 128-129, February-May 192, pp. 5-9. [A fascinating and detailed account of the complex traditional techniques of fire-gilding in Nepal.]
gilding in German: Vergolden
gilding in French: Dorure
gilding in Italian: Foglia oro
gilding in Dutch: Vergulden
gilding in Japanese: めっき
gilding in Polish: Pozłotnictwo
gilding in Slovenian: Pozlatitev
gilding in Swedish: Förgyllning
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