To meet their lighting needs, people in 18th century England and France used ormolu sconces to hold torches and candles. The sconces were then hung on the walls to provide light in large spaces. Among the most popular pieces made at this time were the ormolu sconces. Ormolu was originally a French term used to mean significantly pounded or ground gold. When it was adopted in 18th century England, Ormolu came to refer to the technique used to apply high-carat, finely ground gold to a bronze object. Also, objects whose finishing was done in this manner were also referred to as ormolu.
In short, ormolu sconces are gold-plated pieces on which candles, lamps, and torches were placed to provide lighting. They were made by driving mercury from the kiln to ensure the object gets gold-coated. This technique is still used today to create ormolu sconces for holding electric lamps.
Ormolu sconces are manufactured through the fire-gilding or mercury gilding process. It involves the application of a mercury nitrate solution to a bronze sconce after which a mixture of gold and mercury is applied. When exposed to extreme heat, the mercury vaporizes leaving behind the gold. In the end, the item becomes gold-plated.
Because of the danger involved in this method, it has been replaced by the electroplating technique, which involves the use of a nickel substrate. Apart from being safer, the newer method is also more economical. But the items made using this latter method cannot actually be referred to as ormolu.
How Are Ormolu Sconces Used?
You can place your ormolu sconces both inside and outside the house to provide lighting. When the candles are lit, they produce flames which are then reflected against the backplate. This produces a more intense light which then illuminates your space.
Now that people are predominantly using electric lighting, antique ormolu sconces can be used to decorate your home. When placed on the walls, they will provide a perfect contrast to attract the attention of your guests.
Alternatively, you could use modern electric ormolu sconces on the corridors and hallways. Apart from providing the lighting, they will act as decorations to attract the attention of your guests. Like in the days gone by, these sconces should be placed at ¾ of the height of the wall from the floor. The spacing of the sconces on the wall is often the same as the height it stands from the floor.
The best way to place sconces on the walls is to alternate them on oppositely facing walls of a passageway. In most cases, sconces are used in pairs. If not, then different multiple units will be used to create a sense of balance. That’s why all sconces for sale are offered in pairs. You may also use ormolu sconces on your frame doorways. If you have a swing arm sconce, then you can place it next to your bed and use it as a reading light.
Don’t hesitate to buy a good pair of ormolu sconces when you come across one. You could alter the look of your home for the better without much of an effort.
Please enjoy some videos of our English and French gilt sconces from the Canonbury Antiques YouTube channel:
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