Gold Harp Care  by  Valeria Martin


Gold Harp Care
by  Valeria Martin

The gold on my harp is tarnished. Why?

Did you know that gold does not tarnish? As your harp ages, the gold will appear to change in tone and brilliance. The gold on your harp is sealed with lacquer or on some older harps it is sealed with shellac to protect against staining and fingerprints. Therefore, it is the lacquer or shellac that is changing and developing a patina. While the patina of age can be desirable, the gold can be brightened by having a gilder carefully remove the old sealant and apply a fresh new coat.

The gold on my harp is worn away and has dings and gashes. Can these be fixed?

Wear and tear is unavoidable when handling and moving your harp. Oils and perspiration from your hands can wear away the protective finish and gold. When handling your harp by the column, use a soft, clean cloth or clean cotton gloves reserved for that purpose. Avoid grasping the sound holes on the body and use the handle.  Did you know your jewelry can also damage your harp?  This includes ungilded harps as well. Remove your rings and bracelets when handling and playing your harp. Avoid repairing the gold yourself.  Many “repairs” have been made with craft store gold paint. Short term patching or touching up damaged gilding does not work because gilding is not a forgiving medium and does not patch well. It is difficult to blend the patching with the original gilding around it. The process would actually take longer trying to do so, especially if there are multiple areas.  It is more efficient for the gilder to strip the area and do a thorough regild for quality and uniformity. It is a much better long term solution.

 How do I clean my gold harp?

Harps get dirty. The bottom portion of the column, the baseboard, base and feet get it the worst with years of dirt embedded in the ornamentation. NEVER put any type of cleaning fluid on the surface. Major cleaning should be done by a gilder. To avoid or reduce dirt accumulation, practice a preventive measure of dusting your harp regularly with a soft clean cloth and dust the ornamentation with a soft paint brush reserved for that purpose. Also cover your harp when not in use and avoid direct sunlight.


This article first appeared in the Summer 2014 edition of the Historical Harp Society Bulletin and is reprinted with permission of The Historical Harp Society,


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