Antique Circa 1810 French Ormolu Casket
This superb ormolu casket is large, heavy and so beautiful. Ormolu, from the French "or moulu" (ground gold) is the technique of applying finely ground, high carat gold mixed with mercury to a metal object---in this case bronze. The mercury burns off in a very hot kiln, leaving a coating of gold behind.
This casket was probably lined with silk or velvet when it was first in use two hundred years ago. We can imagine a diamond necklace or tiara resting inside or perhaps important papers. The openwork filigree has designs of branches, leaves and flowers; the lid is topped with a small scallop shell and below that is a wonderful winged cherub that's centered over the keyhole (no key came with the casket).
A tantalizing bit of the casket's history is on the cover of an antique booklet (pictured in our photos) published in January 1921 by the Canada Life Assurance Company. It displays a photo of the casket, which was awarded to a quarterly top salesman by the company. It's described as "...of French design of the time of the first Napoleon and is ornamented with gold." This pamphlet accompanied the casket when we purchased it and we will of course include it with the casket for the buyer.
Measuring 10 3/4 inches long, 8 inches tall and 7 3/4 inches front to back, the piece weighs an impressive 8 1/2 pounds. The top and front retain most of the gold; the sides and back are more worn. The bottom of the casket is a thick sheet of iron that has rust both inside and out. The last of our photos shows the casket propped on an antique pottery wine bottle from a chateau in France for a different perspective on the front of the box.
This antique casket was a piece made for the nobility in France or quite possibly royalty. It displays beautifully and draws admiring comments wherever it's placed.
>>>The care of ormolu: Use a cloth dampened with water only to clean this casket; never use any cleaning products or abrasives. We went through over 100 damp cotton swabs to clean the dust of ages out of all the crevices. If there's any left, it's complimentary.