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Gilding & Restoration Services

What Is Gilding?

Gilding is the application of thin sheets of metal (most 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 mordant (oil size) gilding.  For more information, visit the Society of Gilders.

Our Services:

  • Conservation, restoration, repair, and gilding of fine antique picture frames and furniture items.
  • We also offer hand built, custom finished frames made to your specifications.
  • Architectural gilding.
  • Glass gilding.
  • Gilded signage.

Our experience includes fine gilded finishes on all types of interior items, architectural and sculpture projects, both indoor and outdoor applications. Within these projects, we have employed every kind of leaf, from genuine gold, silver, and palladium leaf 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 continue to serve on the organization’s board.

Member AIC (American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works)


Information for 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.



Click on the category you would like to view.  Then click on any image you would like to see a closer view of.

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.




In addition to gilded surfaces…  The wood, painted and gilded finishes on this frame were all damaged. Restoration included stabilization and repairs on each section.



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.




Wood and Silver Frame – Restoration was done on all sections of this frame.



Hand Built, Custom Finished Frames

Replica Frame – This frame was built to replicate a frame which could not be repaired or saved. Photos show the basic building and finishing process.





Replica Frame – This frame is a replica of a frame from The National Gallery, Washington D.C.



New Frame  Built for portrait of Joel Cheek – Nashville, TN


Replicated Frame – White Hall Historic Site – Lexington, KY       The frame on the right was original to the portrait. The companion frame for the woman’s portrait was lost. We replicated the frame on the man’s portrait for the woman’s portrait. Gilded with 23k gold leaf.


Looking for something a little different?

Check out these non-traditional custom built, hand finished frames.

Furniture and Other Objects

Pair of period urn lamp bases – Repairs were made, then spot gilding and touch up were done, keeping in tact the beautiful antique patina of the original look and finish of these pieces.



Louis XV Armchair Restoration





Antique Bed Crown



Antique Carved Wood Chandelier




Belle Meade Plantation Cornices




Gilded Signage


Gold leafed signs on glass or other materials.



Gold Leaf sign on carved wood base.

Gilded Signage on Glass

Glass sign gilding samples

Gilded Mirrors & Verre Eglomise

Verre Eglomise – from the French term meaning glass gilded. It also incorporates painting portions of the glass in reverse.

Mirror Panels – Gilded glass with palladium leaf, square panels mounted on walls on either side of the fireplace.




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.





Commissioned – Verre eglomise mirror and hand built gilded frame.


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 $250 and up. Please email to inquire of availability and specific price.

Tabernacle Frame with silver and gold mirror.


Copper and silver mirror with hand made copper and black frame.


Retro Mirror – Silver and painted mirror with 23k gold frame.


Bandanna design mirror with steel pipe and wood frame.


Mirror Mirror – Verre eglomise mirror on antique glass in silver and gold leaf with hand built wood and gold frame.


Crow – Etched mirror on antique glass with hand built frame.

Various photos above – by Joshua Nichols

Architectural Gilding

Schermerhorn Symphony Center





 White Hall Historic Site, Lexington, KY – Pier Mirror




Clover Leaf Bank, Edwardsville, IL –  Spire



Mirrored Wall




Aluminum Leafed Wall



Gilded Ceilings – Fisher Island, Miami





Sculpture Gilding

Athena at Nashville’s Parthenon




Nashville’s “Musica” Sculpture




Bird – This bird is one of 3 that we gilded that are a part of a sculpture for the TN Governor’s Mansion

  • Frame Restoration & Gilding

    Frame Restoration & Gilding

  • Hand Built, Custom Finished Frames

    Hand Built, Custom Finished Frames

  • Furniture and Other Objects

    Furniture and Other Objects

  • Gilded Signage

    Gilded Signage

  • Gilded Mirrors & Verre Eglomise

    Gilded Mirrors & Verre Eglomise

  • Architectural Gilding

    Architectural Gilding

  • Sculpture Gilding

    Sculpture Gilding

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.


Metal Leaf:

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



Gilding Materials:

  • 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
  • Sil-Tech Modeling Putty: 5kg pail
  • Whiting
  • Rotten Stone

Please call or email for prices and details


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.

About Us


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 30 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 has previously served as Vice-President and currently serves on the board of trustees. Both are well-respected educators in the arts of restoration, gilding.


Reed’s Gold Leaf Studios
Micki & Mitchell Cavanah

Check out our NEW website – Reed Artisans –

713 Tuckahoe Drive
Madison, TN 37115-3430

(615) 294-6113

Email us at:

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