Gold Leafing is the process that the material Gold leaf is applied to a surface. Gold leafing, sometimes referred to as gilding, is done using water gilding, as well as some other techniques. This form of gilding is often seen as the most difficult form of gold leafing. The process has been around for hundreds of years and is still done by hand to ensure the best quality outcome of gold leafing. The surface will be treated to ensure it is smooth and gesso, a type of glue, will be applied before placing the gold onto the surface, and then removing any loose bits of gold to ensure an even coat.
Water Gilding is the highest regarded technique of gold leafing however most mechanical gilding techniques can be used to apply gold leaf to a surface. Wood carvers and gilders use techniques of burnishing, oil-gilding and the aforementioned water gilding.
Materials such as polished iron, steel, and other metals have the technique of gold leafing applied to them mechanically by applying the gold leaf to the material at a temperature just under red hot. The gold leaf is then pressed onto the material with a burnisher. More gold leafing can be added by reheating. This process is then completed by cold burnishing.
The simplest method of gold leafing is the most ancient done by overlaying, folding or hammering the gold leaf. This is mostly done on wood with a thin layer of bitumen underneath the gold leaf to help with adhesion to the surface that it is being applied to.
Often, after the process of gold leafing, artists will heat the surface slightly to remove any imperfections and ensure that the material has a smooth even coat.
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