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Gilding on acid

The Minton factory was responsible for a huge uplift in the quality of British porcelain during the mid to late 19th Century. They achieved much of this by poaching some of the best scientists and artists from the famous French Sèvres factory, which enabled them to keep coming up with new materials and production processes.

This was the time of majolica, parian porcelain, the pâte-sur-pâte technique, and today we are looking at acid gilding.

Compared with how gilding had been done until the year 1863, you could safely say that gilding went on acid after that year. Until then, gilding had always been added last in the process of porcelain decoration, but Jame Leigh Hughes, a Minton gilder, turned everything on its head. He invented the "acid gold" process.

With acid gilding, the gilt is not added last, but it is the first element of a design that is applied to a newly glazed object. A very fine border design (see the plate pictured here) would be cut deeply into a copper plate, just like with printed designs - but deeper. A transfer print was taken from this copper plate, and the pattern as well as the rest of the object (usually a plate) was covered in a wax-based "resist" for protection. Then the item was immersed in a bath of acid for 5 minutes. The acid would eat into the glaze round the pattern, resulting in a beautiful relief pattern, which was then covered in gilt. The gilt could be burnished selectively, creating shiny and matt areas.

Acid gilded borders create a very rich effect. When you see a whole acid gilded dessert service laid out on the table, the light gets refracted in an extraordinarily fine way, leaving a subtle shine. This method was very difficult and expensive to apply, so it was only done with porcelain items of the highest quality.

Minton patented the rights to acid gilding and you can see the acid gilt borders on many of their dessert services from the second half of the 19th Century. I am lucky enough to currently have two in stock, as well as some beautiful framed plates and a stunning centre piece - have a look at them!

Where to find things

You can you can find all my current Minton stock here. You can find all my available items here, and if you want to stay up to date with new additions, find me on Instagram, where I put up pictures with a story several times a week.

Happy weekend, and don't take too much acid! 🌟🌟🌟

You can find all kinds of information about Minton in The Minton Archive.


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