We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Ormolu?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Musical Expert is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Musical Expert, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Ormolu, also called ground gold, is a coating put on an object to imitate the look of gold. Historically, this refers to a coating on bronze or brass items that is only achieved by a dangerous process known as mercury gilding. In modern usage, ormolu is used for any gilded object, though true pieces are rare.

In the early 18th century, Baroque and Rococo design styles achieved popularity among the royal and noble classes of Europe, notably in France and England. Rococo design in particular relies on highly-detailed ornamentation, occasionally leading detractors to refer to it as baroque gone insane. Unlike early design forms, where ornamentation was seen as an accessory to architecture, Rococo turned the process around, having architecture conform to whimsical, asymmetrical, and highly decorated design. One of the cornerstones of the movement was adoration for extremely detailed gold or gilded decorations.

In France, the rarity of gold lead and the popularity of Rococo lead to the invention of gold hybrids, notably by mixing gold with mercury paste. The name, of the gilding comes from the French words or molu, meaning mashed gold. To compensate for the lack of easily available gold sources, ormolu became extremely popular throughout Europe.

The process used to create ormolu involved an extremely dangerous method. To mercury gild, or fire guild, an object, the gold-mercury mix was applied to a brass or bronze mount, and then heated until the mercury vaporized. When cooled, the gilding would leave only the gold behind, firmly affixed to the mount. Unfortunately, the inhalation of mercury fumes is incredibly toxic, leading to the deaths of most ormolu crafters by the age of 40.

Jacques Caffieri was one of the best known French designers to use the process. Already renowned as a bronze sculptor, Caffieri adopted the new style to unbelievable success. Much of his work was crafted for Louis XV and the royal family. One of his best known ormolu pieces is a toilet built for the king’s Versailles bedchamber. In 1740, Caffieri’s wife obtained a royal permit to gild and cast bronze in the same workshop, which expanded their capabilities.

Throughout France and much of Europe, ormolu was used on furniture and sculptures. As Rococo styles gave way to the simplistic Neoclassical form, the popularity fell sharply. By 1830, due to trend changes and the danger of the process, the poisonous methods of creating gilt fell out of fashion. Gilding waxed and waned in popularity throughout the next two centuries, but other, safer methods were created to achieve the desirable gold coating.

Today, true ormolu is rare and prized by collectors. Museums worldwide feature authentic pieces in displays of 17th-18th style and design Although it is certainly pretty to look at when well preserved, it is difficult to escape the shadow of deaths caused by the mercury firing, and the ignorance that allowed the process to exist for over a century.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Musical Expert. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
Learn more
Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.