Gilt leather


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Gilt leather is not actually made with gold. Instead, the leather is covered with silver leaf, and then a golden yellow varnish is applied over it. This allows the silver to shine through whilst giving it a gold colour. It is then moulded with a design in a similar way to embossed wallpaper, or it may be decorated with punches.  The design is usually picked out with paints. It is most commonly found on screens and wall hangings.  It is also found on altar frontals, chairs, boxes etc. There are also painted leather screens which are not gilt leather. These tend to be Victorian.

It can be cleaned, straightened, repaired, gaps can be filled, and scratches toned down.

Gilt leather crucifix, from the the Van den Heuvel workshop, Amsterdam, circa 1650. Conserved for a private client. The work included cleaning, securing a loose area and inpainting damage.
gilt leather screen after conservationPainted gilt leather screen conserved for Upton House, The National Trust. (Detail). Splits were repaired, holes were filled, and the surface was cleaned.
gilt leather screen after restorationGilt leather screen Croft Castle, The National Trust. See below.
painted screen before conservation and restorationGilt leather screen at Croft Castle before treatment.
painted leather screen after consvation and restorationGilt leather screen at Croft Castle after repair of the splits with archival quality leather, gap filling with a flexible filler, cleaning, and inpainting.

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©2003 Sturge Conservation Studio
Last modified: February, 2015