Among the antique dealers who trawl fairs and hunting grounds searching for treasure for their clients, there are those who simply buy and sell on, and those who know how to save and restore.
Having the knowledge and expertise to recognise a good piece and to rescue it from demolition is a rare and valuable asset. The dealer who has that ability is able to assess and purchase pieces that most people will walk past or discard.
An area where this often comes in handy is in old gold leafed picture frames, generally made of wood, with some plaster moulding added to create a more ornate shape and style.
On fairs old frames for sale will often have part of the raised decorative detail broken or missing. Or even the wooden frame may even have cracked. Back in the atelier, the expert craftsman will secure the frame joints, then take a mould from the surviving decorative detail and cast a replica in plaster. The resulting plaster cast shape is fixed to the frame, adjusted, sanded and tweaked until it is a perfect match
Then the magic starts! Knowing how to apply gold leaf and burnishing it to give it just the right tone and patina is an art that requires a lot of practice and experience.
The process is fascinating to watch and the tools required, works of beauty in their own right. Be it the padded leather cushion with its fold up parchment screen to protect the gold leaf from dust and breeze, or the fine sable brush which is simply waved across the gold leaf, attracting the fine metal like a magnet.
It is a privilege to see these old pieces brought back to life. Many of the frames for sale in fairs are 18th century, and were it not for these rare craftsmen they would certainly be lost for ever