The Walnut woods are probably the most recognisable and popular of all the exotic woods, having been used in furniture making for many centuries. Walnut veneer was highly priced and the cost would reflect the ‘fanciness’ of the veneer – the more decorative, then the more expensive and desirable.
Figured Walnut and Burr Walnut (often referred to as Burl Walnut) were considered as the most attractive varieties of Walnut. Burr Walnut veneer was taken from the specific part of the tree where ‘growths’ sprouting smaller branches and/ or roots would occur. As these ‘growth’ areas were limited in both occurrence and size, larger veneers were hard to source and often on bigger furniture (tables, desks, bureaus, cabinets etc), these veneers would have to be carefully joined by matching up the pieces or blending them together.
is a rich warm reddish brown wood that has a distinct grain with dark brown and black outlining. One variety of Rosewood can vary significantly from another even though it is of the same species. These Rosewoods, native of India, South East Asia and Brazil, were dense and awkward to work with. It was renowned for quickly bluntening cutting tools and visibly darkening in colour when over prepared.
The Brazilian species of Rosewood was by far the most beautifully figured and therefore it became the most sought after and rare. This was the wood of choice for the great box makers, David and Thomas Edwards who used it to veneer some of their finest pieces.
Ormolu (from French 'or moulu', signifying ground or pounded gold) is an 18th-century English term for applying finely ground, high-carat gold in a mercury amalgam to an object of bronze.The mercury is driven off in a kiln leaving behind a gold-coloured veneer known as 'gilt bronze'.
The manufacture of true ormolu employs a process known as mercury-gilding or fire-gilding, in which a solution of nitrate of mercury is applied to a piece of copper, brass, or bronze, followed by the application of an amalgam of gold and mercury. The item was then exposed to extreme heat until the mercury burned off and the gold remained, adhered to the metal object.
No true ormolu was produced in France after around 1830 because legislation had outlawed the use of mercury. Therefore, other techniques were used instead but nothing surpasses the original mercury-firing ormolu method for sheer beauty and richness of colour. Electroplating is the most common modern technique. Ormolu techniques are essentially the same as those used on silver, to produce silver-gilt (also known as vermeil).