| Sheila Howell
What is Ormolu?
Ormolu is an English word used to describe the gilded bronze metal alloy that is molded into shapes by ébénistes craftsmen and used to decorate 18th and 19th century furniture. Made of copper, zinc, and sometimes tin or finely ground, high-carat gold–mercury ormolu is called bronze doré in French.
Introduced by Louis XIV ébénistes, these bronze mounts protected the most delicate parts of the furniture, such as locks, edges and legs. The ormolu accents were made from wax molds and then hand-chiseled to add detail. Typical ormolu motifs are leaves, ribbons, flowers and animals.
To clean pieces decorated with ormolu,
Victoria and Albert Museum suggests,
Cleaning gold and ormolu should be limited to gently dusting with a soft brush. If the surface is discoloured, use a swab moistened with methylated spirit and rub gently. If this doesn't work, try a swab moistened with spit, followed by a swab moistened with distilled water.
Ormolu was used to accent and protect furniture, clocks, vases and other accessories. Ormolu decorations were very popular, but working with the mercury used to make ormolu was very damaging to the health, and many ormolu craftsmen did not live past their 40s. Ormolu was replaced with other techniques, primarily electroplating.
Antique Furniture Decorated with Ormolu
An absolutely stunning period piece, this majestic French commode features a luscious beveled rose marble top, strongly grained wood veneers, and plentiful gilded brass ornamentation. The moment it caught my eye, I knew I couldn't leave it behind. This beautiful piece captures the essence of 1790-era French craftsmanship like few others. Two large drawers; wonderfully preserved.
76" W x 26.5" D x 37" H.
We call this our "Kidney Table" because of the uniquely shaped undershelf that presumably gives clearance for a domestic staff member's legs. Its gorgeous oval top appears to be crafted of native Rouge des Pyrenees quarried marble from western France. Richly stained wood with floral marquetry and toned brass ornamentation; both side trays feature pebbled burgundy leather inserts with gold leaf embossing. Rolls on brass casters.
Excellent condition. Circa 1810.
24" W x 16.5" D x 30" H.
Circa early the 20th Century, perfect sized French chest in Louis XV style has inlay across the front of the two drawers. Ormolu adorns the front, corners and front feet. It is topped off with a beautiful marble top in a lovely cream color. Some small parts of veneer are missing.
European Finds has antique furniture decorated with ormolu available in our online antique warehouse. If you don't see what you are looking for, give us a call, and perhaps we can help you find the perfect piece! We also provide antique sourcing services if you are looking for a specific piece.