Gilding is the art of applying thin layers of gold leaf to a surface for decorative purposes, so the finished product looks as if it is made from gold. Almost any surface can be prepared for gilding, from wood and metal to food. The leaves are offered in different forms depending on the surface to be covered and the effect desired.
The gold leaf itself comes in two forms, loose and transfer. It is made by beating gold into ribbons which are 0.1 millionths of an inch (four or five millionths of an inch thick), then cutting into squares which are 85mm x 85mm. These leaves are then laid between sheets of paper which are bound together to form a “book”. Each book of our gold leaf contains 25 leaves.
In order to make transfer gold leaf the leaves are pressed onto paper for easier handling and application, ideal for flat surfaces and signwriting. For more intricate flat decoration, we can press the transfer to a higher weight on request to ensure less wastage - if you would like this service please let us know by leaving a comment at the end of your order.
For the process of water gilding, a surface is prepared using gesso (a mixture of whiting and glue) to prevent porosity. After the gesso has been applied and is dry, it is re-wet using a mixture of water and rabbit skin glue and the leaves of gold are applied. Items gilded in this method can be highly burnished using an agate burnisher.
Oil gilding has traditionally been achieved using a gold size which is a linseed oil based adhesive similar to a varnish. When the size has reached a suitable level of tackiness the leaf is applied and this is usually performed with the transfer leaf described above. The gold sizes are available with different drying speeds to that the reach the suitable tackiness at different times, after either 1-2 hours, 3 hours, 12 hours or 24 hours.
In recent years water based sizes have been introduced which are easier to work with than the oil sizes but these should not be confused with the water gilding technique described above.
Gold leaf is available in pure 24 carat form but is also mixed with a wide range of alloys such as silver, palladium or copper to give slightly different hues to the gold. Any leaf of 22 carat or higher is for all practical purposes inert and will not tarnish but leaves with a lower gold content should be protected from oxidisation with a lacquer or varnish. Silver leaf, copper leaf and the imitation gold and silver leaf also needs to be protected with a lacquer.