Ormolu Gilt bronze— common on high-quality pieces— is called ormolu (from ormoulu, French for “melted gold”). In addition to simple utilitarian pulls and handles, you’ll find antiques embellished with ornamental elements such as hooves, inlays, and macaroons. Until the mid-19th century, gilding bronze was achieved via a highly toxic technique: A mixture of mercury and gold was applied to brass and then heated, which burned off the mercury and left behind a thin plating of pure gold (this method is now illegal). Since then, metal plating has been achieved by electrolysis. It’s easy to distinguish between 18th- and 19th-century gilt ormolu by looking at the back side of the hardware. Electroplating coats every surface of the hardware, so the back will look the same as the front, only unpolished. By contrast, in the older technique, gilt was applied just to the front, so the back side is raw bronze or brass, probably patinated to a dull green, and bordered with an uneven brushed line of gilt finish.