Dutch Metal – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Conservation and Restoration Glossary

What is Dutch Metal?

Dutch metal, also known as Dutch leaf or Dutch gold, is a type of metal leaf that is commonly used in decorative arts and restoration. It is made from a combination of copper and zinc, giving it a bright gold-like appearance. Dutch metal is often used in gilding, where it is applied to surfaces to create a luxurious and ornate finish.

Dutch metal is popular for its affordability and ease of use compared to traditional gold leaf. It can be applied to a variety of surfaces, including wood, metal, and even paper. Dutch metal is often used in architectural detailing, picture frames, and furniture restoration.

History of Dutch Metal

The use of Dutch metal dates back to the 17th century in the Netherlands, hence the name. Dutch metal was originally created as a more cost-effective alternative to gold leaf, which was expensive and difficult to produce. Dutch metal quickly gained popularity for its similar appearance to gold leaf at a fraction of the cost.

During the Baroque and Rococo periods, Dutch metal was widely used in decorative arts and architecture throughout Europe. It became a staple in gilding and ornamentation, adorning palaces, churches, and grand homes. Dutch metal continued to be popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, with its use expanding to include furniture, mirrors, and other decorative objects.

Characteristics of Dutch Metal

Dutch metal is known for its bright and lustrous appearance, resembling gold leaf. It is lightweight and flexible, making it easy to work with and manipulate. Dutch metal can be cut, shaped, and applied to surfaces with adhesive or sizing.

One of the key characteristics of Dutch metal is its durability. When properly applied and sealed, Dutch metal can withstand the test of time and resist tarnishing. It is also resistant to moisture and environmental factors, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

Conservation and Restoration of Dutch Metal

Conservation and restoration of Dutch metal objects require careful handling and attention to detail. When dealing with historic pieces or artworks, it is essential to consult with a professional conservator or restorer who has experience working with Dutch metal.

The conservation process may involve cleaning, stabilizing, and repairing the Dutch metal surface. Conservators use specialized techniques and materials to ensure the longevity and integrity of the metal leaf. In some cases, re-gilding or reapplication of Dutch metal may be necessary to restore the object to its original appearance.

Common issues with Dutch Metal

Despite its durability, Dutch metal can experience a range of issues over time. One common problem is tarnishing, which can occur due to exposure to air, moisture, or pollutants. Tarnished Dutch metal may appear dull or discolored, requiring cleaning and polishing to restore its shine.

Another issue with Dutch metal is delamination, where the metal leaf separates from the surface it is applied to. This can be caused by improper adhesion or environmental factors. Delamination can be repaired by reattaching the Dutch metal with appropriate adhesive and sealing.


In conclusion, Dutch metal is a versatile and affordable material that has been used in decorative arts and restoration for centuries. Its bright appearance, durability, and ease of use make it a popular choice for gilding and ornamentation. Conservation and restoration of Dutch metal objects require specialized knowledge and techniques to ensure their preservation for future generations. Despite common issues such as tarnishing and delamination, Dutch metal can be maintained and restored with proper care and attention.