Giltwood, or gilded wood, is wood coated with a thin layer of gold. In some cases, the gold may actually be gold-colored paint. Wood furniture, candlesticks, picture frames and mirror frames are some of the items given the gold treatment. Some giltwood antiques are extremely valuable.

classic palace interior with armchair mirror and golden molding
credit: Pablo Demetrio Scapinachis Armstrong/iStock/Getty Images
Giltwood frame and wall molding.

The Gilding Process

Giltwood is just a combination of the words "gilt" and "wood"; the term has been used as a way to describe a particular treatment on wooden luxury items in centuries past. Gilding, gilt and gold leaf all refer to items treated with a thin layer of gold, a practice which dates back to ancient Egypt. Extremely thin gold leaf or gold foil is applied to wood with a special gilding adhesive that bonds the gold to the wood. Although some giltwood pieces are made with true gold, others use a foil made from a combination of metals for a gold-like appearance at lower cost. Yet others are treated with a gold-colored paint that looks like actual gold but is not. An antiques dealer or gilding restorer willl be able to determine whether actual gold was used on a giltwood object.