What is Silver Gilt?
Did you know that most large gold objects are more often made out of silver, before being finished with gold? This is known as silver-gilt, a practice that has been used for centuries.
For example, silver guilt has been used on all Olympic Gold Medals medals since 1912. Even some of the Crown Jewels are in fact silver-gilt, not gold. It was of great disappointment that Queen Edith’s Crown, when it was sold after the execution of Charles I, was made of silver-gilt. Therefore making it only worth £16, rather than £1,100.
Silver-gilt means that the core of the object is silver. Gold is then overlaid using various methods, now most commonly electroplating. Different techniques of silver-gilt are carried out all over the world, from the Korean technique of ‘Keum-boo’, to the Chinese of Ormalu. There are even mentions of silver-gilt in the ancient world in Homer’s Odyssey, one of the earliest pieces of literature known to man.
Silver-gilt has many advantages over gold. Not only is it cheaper to produce, but it is lighter, which is a huge advantage when making large statues. It is also much stronger – which is why cowboys are renowned for biting their gold coins to check that they were real.
So, now you know a little about Silver-gilt. The next time you win a gold medal, be careful not to bite into it, as it’s probably silver-gilt and you may break your teeth!