What’s the best way to clean a French Ormolu Clock?
Ormolu is gold-coloured alloy of copper, zinc, and sometimes tin on bronze.
Don’t even think about using an off-the-shelf metal polish. That may remove the “gold” leaving the bronze exposed and can become tarnished.
One good DIY formula: dish soap, warm water, a cupful of Liquid Ammonia
…stir well, gently apply with a toothbrush, rinse off.
What do you use?
The process of creating an “ormolu” product was very dangerous. A gold and mercury mixture was applied to a brass or bronze mount, and then heated until the mercury vaporized. When it cooled, the gilding would leave only the gold behind, firmly affixed to the base metal. The inhalation of mercury fumes was very toxic, which lead to the deaths of most workers at an early age.
French clocks emerged in the late 17th century under King Louis XIV. Compared to the austere English clocks of that period, these French clocks came out extremely elegant in design and decoration. They transformed the simplicity of that period into a confection of ornamentation.
Notice how French clocks tend to be loud and pompous in appearance.
For this reason, the French clockmakers were the most prolific in case design. When you find an antique clock with an extravagant case design, most likely the 18th century French clockmakers were the inspiration.