gilding, process of applying a thin layer of real or imitation gold to a surface. The process is employed on wood, metal, ivory, leather, paper, glass, porcelain, and fabrics and is used to embellish the decorative elements, domes, and vaults of buildings. Gold, or a substitute, may be applied in leaf form to a surface prepared by a treatment of size, mercury, acid, or heat. The applied leaf is burnished or left matte. Mechanical and chemical gilding of metals has been largely superseded by electroplating (see plating). The art of gilding is of ancient origin. It was lavishly employed in Egypt, Greece, and Rome and during the Renaissance and has been used continuously in Asia.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.