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Mercury Gilding

I am looking for a shop to get a small mirror frame Mercury gilded,
this is a restoration and I have not found a electroplating color
that matches the other parts of the frame

Regards,
James McMurray
@James_McMurray

You probable never will. Mercury is highly toxic…have you thought
about silvering?

   I am looking for a shop to get a small mirror frame Mercury
gilded, this is a restoration and I have not found a electroplating
color that matches the other parts of the frame 

James, I’m wondering if you could simply modify a plated coating to
match. If the frame is silver, a thin gold plating will get paler
with a bit of time as silver dissipates into the gold, and you could
use that by gold plating, putting a very thing silver flash on it,
then gold plating again, and then heating it up just a bit to get
some slow diffusion. Might need some experimentation. But I’m
guessing that the problem is not that the gilded gold is different
karat or something, but rather just the effects of age and diffusion
of the gold and silver into each other. If that’s the case, then
perhaps one could fudge it somehow. And simply burnishing a plated
gold layer will change the surface markedly towards that of the
mercury gilded look, which generally also gets burnished in some
way. Annealing the plated layer also may change it’s appearance in
the right direction, and given that mercury gilding requires heating
in any case, you’re not doing anything the frame would not also have
to endure if gilded…

cheers
Peter

I am guessing you will look forever for someone to perform mercury
gilding today, with the legal climate being what it is.

Good Luck.

Lee Cornelius
Vegas Jewelers

I understand the toxicity issues, that is why I asked his group to
see if someone happened to know someone doing this with the proper
safety precautions. I tried gold plating but could not get the match.
The frame is very old French and bronze underneath the gold gilding.

If worst comes to worst I will just plate the entire piece, or maybe
speak to our EHS to see what I would need to do to protect myself
then do it in a fume hood. It might be interesting.

Regards,
James McMurray
@James_McMurray

I used to do a lot of mercury gilding, and researched ways of
emulating it. plating would get the color, but if the characteristic
varying thicknesses of the coat were wanted it can be tricky.

The PMC people recently introduced a 22k slip which can fire onto
silver, gold and other metals. I think it might even work like a
paintable keum-boo. Anyway, that might be a route to emulate fire
gilding, both in color and texture. Comments from the metal clay
crowd?

best
Charles

Hello Charles,

I used to do a lot of mercury gilding, 

I have been doing some work with the early medieval cast “imitaion
chip-carving” technique. This material was typically gilded in former
times. One problem I am having with it is that the shape and texture
of the surface makes it difficult to polish. Does it seem plausible to
you that mercury guilding would have produced a well finished piece
without a lot of prepolishing?

I have already worked out ways of dealing with finish using modern
products, but am a little puzzeled at how early smiths would have
dealt with the problem. Mercury gilding seems like the best guess at
this point.

Last week I attended the Insular Art Conference at Trinity College in
Dublin. One thing that became obvious to me is that the scholarly
investigation into these historical art forms could use a lot more
input from working craftsmen with hands-on experience in the materials
they are researching.

Stephen Walker