For the restoration of the Royal Chapel at Versailles, the gilders may have to "preserve" i.e. clean and consolidate old gold, or they may have to recreate the complete re-gilding of a décor or a sculpture. In both cases, they are gilding metal, working on the metal parts of the windows and on the sculpted lead decors that adorn the whole roof.
The gilders apply gold leaves one by one on the previously varnished parts. The leaf is taken from its booklet and manipulated on a gilding cushion. The gilder breathes lightly on the leaf to flatten it in order to be able to manipulate it, cuts it and picks it up with a gilder's tip (a broad and flat marten-hair brush). Gold leaf is fine and fragile. It cannot be picked up by hand. The gilder's tip is used to move it from one point to another. Leaf by leaf, the gilder covers the surface destined for gilding. After applying the gold leaf, the gilder dusts it. This consists in collecting any little pieces that have been superposed. The dusting is done by brushing the base with a gilder's mop (a squirrel-hair brush), thus enabling the gilder to recover any unattached morsels and to fill in the most inaccessible parts. To conclude, the gilder applies a mix of water and edible gelatine. This matting enables the gilding to be smoothed and the colour intensified. Thanks to this restoration, the gilding will restore all the splendour of the Chapelle for more than 100 years to come.
The gilding is the most visible part of the restoration of the Royal Chapel. The gilders play a leading role.