Lacquers for gilders – the wish that will not come true
Lacquers for gilders are designed to protect gold leaf and leaf metals against scratches and oxidation and remain invisible to the eye. Unfortunately, such a lacquer will never truly exist.
Lacquers alter the colour of any type of gilding – whether gold leaf, silver leaf or impact metal. The lacquer coating always causes a refraction of light, which prevents the direct reflection of light on the metal surface. With a lacquer coating we always get a slight colour change and loose the original metallic character of the gilded surface.
Topcoat lacquers find their justification when used with impact metal and silver leaf. Impact metal and silvered surfaces would oxidize in a very short time without a lacquer topcoat. With real gold leaf there are a few reasons in favour of a lacquer topcoat. Gold leaf with a fineness ranging from 6 to 21 carats would oxidize over time without the use of lacquer. From 22 carats upwards, a coating is not required on interior gilding. Exceptions can be surfaces exposed to heavy wear, e.g. gilded picture frames, gilded grandfather clocks, gilded door elements and door frames.
No lacquers on exterior gilding
Careful consideration must be given prior to applying a lacquer coating onto gilded surfaces in outdoor spaces. The build-up of oil gilding does not provide suitable hold for a subsequent coat of lacquer. The lacquer runs the risk of cracking and coming away. Gildings exposed to the weather generally become weathered and unsightly after a few years. A gilding without a lacquer coating will last 5 to 10 years longer in this case.
There may also be justified exceptions where the use of lacquer on external gilding would be favourable. The rapid damage caused by mechanical stress on gilded entrance gates and doors poses a problem for the gilder. A lacquer topcoat can delay damage to the gilding. Provided the lacquered gold surface lasts longer than the unlacquered surface, there is much to be said for this alternative.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of bad examples of lacquer having been applied to way crosses and weathercocks, albeit with the best of intention. Due to their “protective coating”, these gildings are not able to survive and appear to the observer more like a coat of paint.
We offer a small number of carefully selected lacquers to choose from.