For the past two weeks, the house team has been focusing on (i.e. dusting!) gilding in the mansion. Gilding is the application of thin layers of metal, most commonly gold, onto a surface. It is often used as decoration for picture frames and furniture, and can be found all around the mansion. The Georgian Era was all about flaunting wealth – gilding was expensive and designed to impress. In a time with no electricity, gilding also reflected candle light, adding to the splendour of a room.
Gilding is extremely delicate and fragile, so to take the best care of it we only dust gilded objects occasionally, and with a specialist conservation brush. We only move gilded objects when absolutely necessary, and we wear gloves at all times. By touching a gilded object with bare hands, fingerprints will permanently etch onto the surface of the object. These fingerprints marks are extremely difficult and expensive to remove.
What’s with all the dusting?
While dust can look unsightly, it is actually one of the ‘agents of decay’ that also includes pests and light (radiation), and can cause damage if not removed. If left on the surface of an object, dust can sometimes cause a chemical reaction and cement to surfaces. Dust can also absorb pollutants and moisture and act as food for pests, all of which can cause damage to objects in the long run.