What is Silver Gilt?

Written by karen malzeke-mcdonald
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What is Silver Gilt?
Silver gilt saves weight when sculpting. (sculpture image by PASCAL BOUFFAY from Fotolia.com)

Silver gilt is also known as gilded silver or "vermeil." Silver gilding is the act of layering gold over an item that is made of silver, making it visually indistinguishable from solid gold.

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Applications

Silver gilt is most commonly used on large sculptures. This makes the item cheaper to produce, lighter to carry and more durable over time. Most large sporting trophies are silver gilt, and Olympic gold medals have been silver gilt since 1912.

What is Silver Gilt?
Silver gilt saves weight when sculpting. (sculpture image by PASCAL BOUFFAY from Fotolia.com)

History

The technique of silver gilding was first mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. Writings by Herodotus describe the Egyptians using silver gilt and the gilding process on other metals. Silver gilt was most popular in European countries--Queen Victoria's crown was silver gilt. In China, silver gilding was practised, but was not as popular as bronze gilding.

What is Silver Gilt?
Silver gilding has a storied history. (crown image by Stanisa Martinovic from Fotolia.com)

Process

Silver gilt was originally applied by "overlaying," or hammering on the gold foil or gold leaf. The layer of gold applied in ancient times was ten times thicker than the layers applied today. Modern silver gilding requires a sheet of gold leaf that is semi-transparent and thinner than a piece of paper. The silver gilt is applied using electroplating.

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