Gilt Bronze Balustrade Conservation: Marble House

Newport, Rhode Island

The mercury gilt and steel balustrade had been constructed by Allard and Sons. Over time, this gold plate had become discolored and required conservation to prevent its eventual loss. In several places, overly aggressive restoration had all but removed the thin layer of gold, exposing the deeper colored bronze.  

This historic metalwork conservation began with us carefully removing several sections at a time, leaving the steel in place. To loosen the discoloration, we immersed each gilt bronze section in a detergent solution for several brief periods of time. Special care was taken to neither handle nor scrub the fragile gold surface, since any pressure risked damage or removal of the gold leaf. After thorough drying, damaged areas were repaired using gold leaf of the appropriate color. Prior to reinstallation, all oxidation on the steel frame was removed, and the original deep brown finish was reapplied.  The cleaned and conserved gold sections were then reattached to their frames.