Gilding & Restoration Services
What Is Gilding?
Gilding is the application of thin sheets of metal (often genuine gold) as a means of surface decoration. Gilding is commonly seen on decorative items such as picture frames, mirrors, furniture, and fine art such as illuminated manuscripts, sculpture and icons. Architectural uses include interior and exterior applications and signage. There are two primary methods of gilding – water gilding and oil gilding. For more information, visit the Society of Gilders.
- Conservation, restoration, repair, and gilding of aging picture frames and furniture items.
- We also hand-build new custom frames and finish them with fine gilding.
- We can create contemporary style frames, or replicate antique frames hundreds of years old.
Our experience includes fine gilded finishes on architectural and sculpture projects, both indoor and outdoor applications. Within these projects, we have employed every kind of leaf, from genuine gold and silver, to metal leaf (i.e. composition gold, copper, variegated, and aluminum).
A Few Past and Present Clients:
- The Parthenon’s Athena
- Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center
- Nashville’s Frist Center Museum
- The Musica Statue at the Music City Round-About
- Tennessee State Museum
- Tennessee State Capitol
- Cheekwood Fine Arts Center
- Vanderbilt University
- Belle Meade Plantation
- Two Rivers Mansion
- Travelers Rest Plantation
- The Filson Club of Louisville, Kentucky
- White Hall Historic Site – richmond, KY
- Numerous other historic homes, museums, private homes, and businesses throughout the Southeast
Reed’s Gold Leaf are long-time members of the Society of Gilders and have served on the organization’s board.
Historic Homes & Museums
Reed’s Gold Leaf has been working to restore and conserve historically-significant pieces for decades. We’ve proudly served sites all over the country including the Parthenon and Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville, the Ashland and Whitehall estates of Kentucky, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. As members of the Society of Gilders, we’ve collaborated to do voluntary work on the Louisiana State Museum, Chicago’s Glessner House, and memorials in Washington DC including the Iwo Jima Memorial and Marconi Memorial. We were also honored to restore frames for pieces by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, and several other masters exhibited in the Frist Center’s “Splendid Palette” in 2006.
All this to say: we’re more than a hired service. We want to be your collaborators. Our passion is historic preservation, and we take every opportunity to work with historic homes and museums. We understand the challenges of project funding, and we want you to be informed about our process and the options we offer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the quote process like? Can you assess a piece from photos? The short answer is: yes! An estimate is never set in stone until we’ve seen a piece in person, but most issues can be identified with a series of clear photos. Once we’ve had a chance to examine a piece by hand, we prepare a condition report which explains the state of the frame. We prioritize the problems at hand and itemize their costs so you can decide on a solution that fits your budget.
How extensive is the restoration process? Every piece we restore gets a dedicated examination to determine whether it needs minor touch-up or complete regilding, and as committed conservationists, we never push to regild a frame when its original antique finish is in good shape. Typically, we recommend a plan for bringing a piece to a fully-repaired archival state, but we always give you flexibility; if you can only afford to reinforce structural problems and prevent critical damage, we’re happy to oblige.
Our budget is always tight. Why is restoration worth pursuing? Again, this is a challenge we understand. Funding comes and goes, but we’re always happy to start examining collections so that you can be prepared and informed when you have the opportunity to move forward. This also allows us to identify the immediate dangers of any specific pieces in your collection, potentially preventing ongoing damage which would only become more expensive (or impossible) to repair later. We know the importance of prioritizing your expenditures, and if it means we only perform minor touch-up on a single piece, it’s always worth it to us to form a new working relationship.
You restore frames, but what about the art? It depends on the extent of the damage, but whatever the case, we keep the process simple for you. We take care of de-installation, re-installation, and moderate cleaning of artwork, but we also collaborate with accredited professional art conservators to handle anything beyond our capabilities (including delivery to and from those specialists). In these cases, they’ll communicate their assessments directly to you.
Why should I prioritize picture frame restoration over art restoration? Ideally, art and frames are restored simultaneously, and we frequently facilitate that process with our associated art conservators. However, we understand that’s not always possible. In these cases, it’s best to consider the frame’s original purpose: to protect the art. A frame with structural problems can cause further damage to the art it’s displaying, whereas it’s almost impossible for the art to damage the frame.
How long does your work last? Our goal is always to achieve complete conservation quality—meaning the finished piece will last for the next century and beyond with proper handling—and by using authentic gold leaf and our well-established methods, that goal is readily achievable. Gilding is a finely-specialized practice passed from craftsman to craftsman throughout the ages, but with modern information, we’ve reached a degree of archival quality that is truly without rival.
Is it obvious to the untrained eye whether a piece needs to be restored? Sometimes, but sometimes not. Damaged ornamentation is often obvious, usually resulting in white gesso or bare wood showing underneath the losses. However, certain subtler problems can develop over time; low-quality finishes can oxidize and leave the surface dull, while improper cleaning can wash out even the highest-quality finishes, and loose gesso can cause ornamentation to become more and more fragile over time. Another easily-overlooked problem is soot from any house which once had a coal-burning furnace, appearing as dust or wear but doing far deeper damage to any finish which has been exposed to it. Last but not least, it can be incredibly difficult to determine whether a piece has structural problems resulting from prior falls, moisture, or a wood-burrowing insect colony.
I’m told a piece has been restored in the past, but it looks “off.” Why? If the finish seems dull, it’s likely composition leaf. As a cheaper alternative to genuine gold leaf, oxidation over time is its nature. However, we also constantly come across improper repair work, sometimes finding layers upon layers: broken ornamentation put back on with household silicone, obvious mangled surface repair, and original gilding which has been painted over—sometimes with so many coats of paint that all the fine detail in the ornamentation disappears. However, all of these problems are reversible with our proper restoration techniques.
What will a gilded piece look like when it’s finished? There’s sometimes a misconception that gilding will bring a piece back to a gaudy bright gold state, but this is almost never the case. An undamaged piece with its original finish will still develop an antique appearance over time, and it’s this appearance we seek to match. After gilding is completed and sealed, we begin the safe process of “antiquing” the finish so the final piece looks its proper age, imitating the look of a never-damaged, well-maintained piece.
You’re called “Reed’s Gold Leaf.” Do you only work on gilded pieces? No! We’re aware that our trade seems very specialized at first glance, but the fact is, our restoration techniques cover a vast area: sculpture, furniture, mirrors, signage, architecture, and much more. However, we focus on the gilding trade as a mainstay of historic preservation because of gold’s unique symbolism: just as the dollar was once backed by gold, gilding has been used to signify the value we place on art and artisans in our society. We believe that’s an important value to carry on for future generations.
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Frame Restoration & Gilding
Portrait Frame Restoration
Belle Meade Plantation – Mirror frame restoration
Busch Estate Frame Restoration – We were able to save the finish on the major parts of this frame, make needed repairs and match new gilding to the original gilded finish.
Harry Hall Painting Frame – We saved the original gilding on this frame, made necessary repairs which included having the calligraphy re-painted on the liner. Then touched up the finish to match the original finish.
Mirror Frame – This frame had small inset mirrors all around the outer edge. The frame was meticulously taken apart, repaired and carefully put back together. The original gilding had been painted over with gold paint, thus requiring re-gilding.
Oval Frame Restoration
Portrait Frame With Engaged Spandral – This frame had many ornament losses. All losses were repaired, stabilized, and the frame was re-gilded.
Gilded Mirrors & Verre Eglomise (Glass Gilding)
Verre Eglomise – from the French term meaning glass gilded. It also incorporates painting portions of the glass in reverse.
Decorative Glass and Gilded Mirrors. The pieces shown here incorporate gilding with various karat gold leaf, silver leaf, aluminum and composition leaf. These pieces are available for purchase, prices range from $20 and up. Please email to inquire of availability and specific price.
Kitchen Backsplash – The backsplash is done in aluminum leaf oil size gilded on the glass. Glass back splash can be attached with hardware or attached to the sub straight with mastic if you do not wish to show hardware.
Additional Examples – Shown here (below) are just a few more samples of gilding on glass. Almost any design can be Incorporated into Verre Eglomise.
Gilding Supplies & Instruction
Restoration and Gilding Supplies
Please note: Prices listed are subject to change at any time without notice. If you don’t see an item you’re looking for, give us a call as we may be able to get it for you. For ordering and all other inquiries call us at (615) 294-6113.
The Gilding Screen Frame
As seen in The Gilders Tip journal – Winter 2015 volume 29 No.1 Great for any flat surface gilding. Water gilding, glass gilding and oil size gilding. $45 +S&H Email or call your order in.
Appx. 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″
25 leaves/book… 20 books/pkg.=(500) leaves
- Copper; Call for Price
- Variegated Red; Call for Price
- Variegated Blue; Call for Price
Bulk Metal Leaf:
Appx. 6 1/4″ x 6 1/4″
- Italian Schlag Bulk – 10,000 shts
- Aluminum Bulk – 5,000 shts
- Aluminum Bulk – 500 shts
Genuine Silver and Gold Leaf:
3 3/8″ x 3 3/8″ leaves
25 leaves/book… 20 books/pkg (500) leaves
- Silver; Call for Price
- 24K Gold; Call for Price
- 23.75K Deep Double Gold; Call for Price
- 23K Deep Gold; Call for Price
- 23K Patent; Call for Price
- 22K Deep Gold; Call for Price
- 22K Patent; Call for Price
- 18K Lemon Gold; Call for Price
- 12K White Gold; Call for Price
- Palladium; Call for Price
- Wunda Gold Size: Water Base-15 min. to 3 hr. pint Qt. Gal.
- LeFranc Mixtion Size: Oil, 3hour 75ml.; 1 Ltr
- LeFranc Mixtion Size: Oil, 12hour 250ml. 1 Ltr.
- Rolco Slow Oil Size: 1 pint
- Gilder’s Mop: – Call for Sizes & Prices
- 250g Shellac Flakes: Light or Dark
- 1 lb. Rabbit Skin Glue: (Pebbles)
- Horse Hair Cloth:
- 3.5″ Gilder’s Tip: Call for Sizes & Prices
- Gilder’s Pillow:
- Gilder’s Knife: Double Edge
- Agate Burnishers: Assorted styles, sizes 1-18,
- Please call prices and details.
- Quick Wood Epoxy Putty:
- Sil-Tech Modeling Putty: 5kg pail
- Rotten Stone
- Liberon Black Bison Wax
- Preval Sprayer: (sprayer unit only);
- SIMPLE GUIDE TO GOLD LEAFING by Lou Reed $12
Our instructor, Micki Cavanah, teaches all facets of restoration and gilding. Classes are geared toward the individual student’s choice of subjects. Classes are one on one and dates can be scheduled according to your needs. Tuition is $450 per day, per student. Experience has shown that a 2 to 3 day class will suffice for almost any student. Contact Micki for more information.
Reed’s Gold Leaf Studios began from within the original family picture framing business, Reed’s Custom Framing. The frame shop opened its doors in 1968, started by Micki Cavanah’s parents, Don and Lou Reed. One of the local clients stated that he had been traveling to Atlanta, GA for all of his gilding needs. Finding it difficult to turn a client away for such services, Lou decided the natural thing to do would be to learn about gilding. At that time, there were very few gilders, and even fewer sources of instruction. It seemed that gilding was becoming a dying art. However, through perseverance, Lou learned the craft of gilding and restoration. She passed along her knowledge to many others through the years, including Micki and her husband, Mitchell Cavanah. For more than 20 years, Micki and Mitchell have continued the fine tradition of gilding that came from such humble beginnings.
Micki and Mitchell are long-time members of the prestigious Society of Gilders of which Micki currently serves as Vice-President. Both are well-respected educators in the arts of restoration, gilding, and the design and creation of one-of-a-kind, museum quality picture frames.