Marquetry, Gilding and French Polish Restoration

There are many arts involved with the restoration business. These include marquetry, gilding and French polishing.




Marquetry is one of the most coveted design elements by many antique lovers. This technique involves setting different types of wood and other natural elements to create an image on a piece of furniture. Often marquetry work is done in wood. But it can also be accomplished with other materials such as bark, stone, metal, ivory and mother-of-pearl.


The marquetry technique has been used for thousands of years, beginning with ancient Egyptians. And unfortunately, it is considered a dying art these days. However, this fact means that anyone having one or more pieces of furniture with marquetry can count themselves all the more fortunate, as they are likely the owners of a very valuable piece. Interestingly, marquetry didn’t become popular in the United States until the last one hundred years.




Yet another incredibly popular design element, gilding involves applying a very thin sheet made of gold or another metal onto an object’s surface using adhesive. There are three types of gilding: oil, water and glass.


Oil gilding is usually reserved for situations where a piece will be exposed to moisture, such as exterior decorations. While oil gilding does not allow for burnishing, it can be used on virtually any surface. Where the best possible finish is desired, water gilding is the solution. However, it is very time and labor-intensive, requiring hours to prepare, apply, sand and polish even before the gold leaf is applied.


Water gilding is best suited for items that will not be exposed to moisture. These include furniture, picture frames and mirrors. Glass gilding involves the application of gold leaf to glass. However, it is placed on the reverse side of the glass. This allows the glass to magnify as well as reflect it more clearly. Gold is the metal most commonly used for glass gilding, but silver, palladium and platinum have also been used. For items like picture frames, metals like bronze and copper are often placed and then tarnished to produce several effects.


French Polishing


While many may think of furniture wax when someone mentions polishing, French polishing is more of an embellishment to a finish than an actual polish. Evidence of French polish can be seen on the surfaces of wooden stringed instruments like the violin. The reason the French polish is used on these instruments is that it doesn’t enter the wood; a finish that did so would alter the instrument’s sound, as the wood molecules and ultimately their resonance would change.


The French polishing process requires denatured alcohol, shellac and pure virgin olive oil, as well as polishing pads. But it also requires time and patience to perfect. The amount of preparation needed before applying the French polish technique will depend on the type of wood you want to apply the technique to. For example, an open grain wood, or one that contains many cracks will need to be filled and then sanded in order to create a surface that will accept the technique.


If you would like to know more about these restoration and preservation techniques please contact us or call us at 203-817-0432. Our A+ Better Business Bureau rating is your assurance of a job well done.