What is Ormolu?

Ormolu is a method of gilding that involves applying finely ground, high-carat gold to a bronze object.


Ormolu, derived from the French term "or moulu," meaning ground gold, is a decorative technique used predominantly in the 18th and 19th centuries for embellishing furniture, clocks, and other luxury items. This ancient method involves applying a mixture of finely ground, high-carat gold mixed with mercury to the surface of a bronze object. The object is then exposed to high temperatures, causing the mercury to vaporize and leaving behind a layer of pure gold adhered to the object's surface.

The use of ormolu provided a rich, opulent finish that was highly sought after among the elite and royalty. It allowed for the creation of intricate designs and patterns, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of furniture and decorative items. However, due to the toxic nature of the mercury used in the process, ormolu fell out of favor in the late 19th century. Today, safer methods of gilding, such as electroplating, are used, but ormolu remains a symbol of luxury and craftsmanship in antique pieces.

Ormolu pieces are admired for their craftsmanship and are considered valuable antiques. Collectors and interior designers seek out ormolu-enhanced items for their historical significance and decorative beauty. These pieces can add a touch of elegance and luxury to any interior design setting, serving as focal points in a room or complementing other decorative elements.


Ormolu is often found on antique furniture, such as cabinets, tables, and mirrors, as well as on clocks, chandeliers, and candelabra. The technique was also used for decorative elements like mounts, handles, and ornamentation on luxury items.


  • Is ormolu still used today?

    Due to health concerns related to the use of mercury, traditional ormolu gilding is rarely used today. Modern gilding techniques, such as electroplating, are preferred for safety reasons.

  • How can I identify ormolu on antique pieces?

    Ormolu can be identified by its rich, golden hue and intricate detailing. It is usually found as decoration on high-quality bronze furniture and accessories. Pieces with original ormolu often have a deeper patina developed over time.

  • Can ormolu be restored if damaged?

    Yes, ormolu can be restored, but it requires the skill of a specialized restorer. Due to the unique properties and historical significance of ormolu, professional restoration is recommended to preserve the integrity of the piece.

Practical Application

When incorporating ormolu-enhanced items into your interior design, consider using them as statement pieces to add a touch of historical elegance and luxury. Pairing ormolu with modern elements can create a visually interesting contrast, blending the old with the new in a harmonious fashion. Ensure that any ormolu items are properly cared for and maintained to preserve their beauty and value.