Gilded side table. Gilding is an ancient decorative painting technique. It consists in the laying of real metal leaf over the exterior of an object or a surface, using a tacky varnish as an adhesive for the leaf to bond to. The metals used can range from real gold, silver, platinum, copper, aluminum and imitation gold, among others. Acids or glazes can also be used over the gilded surface to distress it. A glossy varnish is often used to protect the gilded work from abrasion or oxidization. When the gilding is completed, the decorated piece has the brilliance of real metal!