From Grubby to Gleaming – the Restoration of Antique Fireplaces

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Antique Fireplace

Thornhill Galleries recently acquired this good quality period 18th century French Louis XVI antique marble fireplace in Italian Statuary marble. As Statuary marble is one of the purest marbles when restored well, we thought we’d give you a glimpse into how we return a 250 year old antique fireplace back to its former glory.

As with any chimneypiece we buy, the first step is a thorough clean. Most antique fireplaces that come through our doors haven’t seen any professional attention for decades so delicacy is key. All fireplaces are carefully washed using a variety of cleaning agents specifically designed not to erode or discolour the fine carving or mouldings.

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If the fireplace has been subjected to smoke damage over time, several stages of bleaching (or “poulticing”) may be required in order to draw out the stained area. This can be a lengthy process – often taking several weeks or months depending on the severity of the staining. In one instance, a particularly stained fireplace was being treated for over 4 years!

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Next our skilled restorers start on the carving itself. Sometimes key areas might have been chipped or cracked or it may be necessary to sharpen or re-carve small sections. Needless to say, this is done with the utmost care using techniques used by carvers from centuries ago. In order to get a perfect look when we install the fireplace, everything must be square and level. This can sometimes involve completely re-boxing the fireplace to avoid any unsightly gaps.

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After another thorough clean the fireplace is then ready for waxing. The colour of the marble will dictate what type of wax is used, but for a Statuary marble fireplace like this, we’d usually use a richer wax to bring out the natural milkiness of the white marble. Waxing is not always about enhancing the colour of the marble but also the texture. The correct wax will give the fireplace a tactile lustre and also protects the marble against everyday wear and tear.

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Of course as with anything, these techniques are only as good as the craftsmen applying them. We are proud to employ some of the finest stonemasons working in the country – perfectionists, with an impeccable eye for detail and attention to every aspect of their craft. For more examples of other antique fireplaces that we have restored, please click here – http://www.thornhillgalleries.co.uk/fireplaces/

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