Gold Leaf & Gilding

Gilding is the application of metal leaf, particularly pure gold, or metallic powders to the surface of an object to give the appearance of solid gold. As pure gold does not react to oxygen it will not tarnish or rust.

The application of gold leaf has been used for centuries to embellish decorative objects such as picture frames, furniture and mirrors as well as architectural features such as decorative plaster on ceilings. It is also used on the reverse of glass (Verre Églomisé), in calligraphy illumination, on signage, and in fine art.

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The two main methods of gilding include Water Gilding and Oil Gilding.

Water Gilding requires careful preparation and a series of procedures before applying the gold leaf. The gold leaf is then burnished to produce a brilliant finish. This method of gilding is suitable for interior application only.

Oil Gilding, which is also known as Mordant Gilding, requires the surface to be sealed with gesso or primer before coating it with an oil or acrylic based size. The gold leaf is applied when the size has dried enough to become tacky. As the leaf cannot be burnished it does not produce the same high shine as water gilding. Oil Gilding can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, and an oil size is best used for exterior gilding.

Included here are materials and tools for gilding with the pure gold leaf, silver and other metal leaf, plus a choice of metallic and pearlescent powders and mediums for creating a gilt effect.