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Gold leaf: how to get it and where to use it


Unlike gold paints, pastes, mirror films, gold leaf gives the surface a real golden look. Such gilding is very well suited for finishing baguette, frames, interior and architectural stucco moldings. How is gilding made with this material? Consider the gilding technology in series.

What is gold leaf?

Gold leaf represents the thinnest gold leaves (very thin foil). Its thickness is much less than hair, so this material can be damaged by a simple blow of air. But such a density is enough to create a spectacular appearance of a gold coating. By the way, the name "gold leaf" comes from the word "tinsel", which translates as "face", "front side", that is, figuratively we are talking about the appearance of the front side of the subject. Gold leaf leaves are stored between sheets of paper, which prevents them from sticking together and provides more convenient work. Sheets of paper and gold are stitched into booklets. It is in this form that gold leaf is sold on store shelves. On sale you can also find potal - an imitation of gold, consisting of alloys of various metals.

Gilding tools

There are many different devices for working with gold leaf. However, consider the main ones.

Suede pad. With the help of her, the master can remove the leaves of gold from the book. But basically, the pillow is used to cut gold leaves on it.

Knife for gilding. With it, leaves of gold leaf are cut into pieces of the right size.

Lampensel - This is a special wide, flat brush of thin hair. With her help, the master “captures” weightless leaves of gold leaf and transfers them to the surface of the subject on which he is working. Also, using lampenzel, gold is transferred to a gilding pad.

Agate stone. It is used to polish a gilded surface and more tightly connect the base with gold leaf sheets. It is a perfectly smooth tip with a handle. After polishing, gold gains a glossy, mirror-like surface.

Glossy Gilding

To achieve a glossy gold coating, the traditional gilding method, which was used in antiquity, is used. This method is called gilding "on the polymer", "gesso" or "water", "glue" gilding. This gilding is best suited for objects made of wood or plaster, which are intended for indoor use.

First, prepare the surface - smooth, grind and cover with glue. After the sizing has dried, several layers of gesso are applied to the prepared surface (each subsequent layer is applied only after drying the previous one). Levkas is a mixture of Bologna gypsum, glue from rabbit skin and water.

Further, according to gesso, the surface is coated with a polymer - a special composition for gilding. Its main components are a bolus (special clay) and glue (for example, rabbit). Up to several layers of polymer can be applied to the surface.

In the process of coating with gesso and polymer, the dried layers are sanded and leveled. Only after the surface is finally prepared can you start applying gold leaf. For this, the dried layers of the polymer are wetted with a solution of water and alcohol. Until this solution is completely absorbed, gold leaves are applied on it with a lampenzel. Under the influence of alcohol and water, weightless leaves of gold leaf fit well on the surface and straighten. Water dissolves the glue included in the composition of the polymer. Therefore, gold sticks to the surface and after drying it can be polished.

Polishing is done with a special tool with an agate stone tip. After this, the leaves of gold leaf tightly adhere to the polymer and acquire a glossy appearance.

Matt gilding

The second traditional method of gilding is called oil or matte. Matt, because with this method of application gold leaf will not have a mirror surface. Oil gilding can be used on objects both indoors and outdoors, as this gilding is more resistant to weathering.

The essence of this technology is that the cleaned surface is first glued, and then a special oil glue is applied - mordan. After it dries, but does not dry completely (while retaining sticky properties), leaves of gold leaf are applied. Mordan is of three types: hour, three-hour and twelve-hour. The names correspond to the drying periods of the glue.

Patina (metal aging)

If gilding is used not real gold leaf, but potal, that is, imitation of gold, then it is prone to oxidation, as it is made from alloys of inexpensive metals (for example, copper and zinc). Therefore, after gilding, the surface may fade. To prevent this, the potal is varnished, which prevents oxidation and cloudiness of the metal. Shellac (a natural resin produced by insects) is best suited for this. Shellac will provide shine and protection of the gilded surface for a long time.

However, in some cases, artificial aging of the metal may be required. For example, in the manufacture of frames for painting, preference is often given not to pure gloss, but to patina (aged metal with a characteristic coating). To achieve an imitation of patina, you can use a varnish based on bitumen resins. Gilding is covered with this varnish. And then, until it is dry, a layer of varnish is wiped with a cloth swab. On the convex parts of the relief, tinting is removed, and through it the gold comes out stronger. In the recesses of the relief, bitumen varnish remains, so the gilding here looks darker. This creates an imitation of patina.

What is gold leaf

Gold leaf is the thinnest sheets of precious metal. Gold leaf is used for decorative coating of objects of art, architectural elements, interior details.

Gold leaf adheres to a smooth surface and is held onto it by the cohesion of molecules.
Traditionally, gold leaf is made and continues to be produced in China.

In Russia there were masters in the production of gold leaf. The most famous of them lived in the Yaroslavl province.

The domes of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rostov-on-Don, before the last restoration, were covered with real gold leaf.

How gold leaf is made

Gold is a soft and ductile metal, so it can be brought to a thin sheet about 100 nanometers thick. Gold sheets are smooth, free from defects and cracks.

Different alloys are used to make gold leaf. Often it happens high-grade gold - 960 or 999 tests.

The higher the sample of gold leaf, the less sensitive the gilding will be to the influence of weather and climatic conditions.

To produce high-quality gold leaf, it is important to observe all the subtleties of a complex technological process:

  • first, a bar 1 cm thick is cast from the gold of the required sample,
  • then it is rolled into a long strip,
  • strips of gold are cut into squares, stacked, laying sheets of silk or tissue paper between them,
  • The resulting stack, called a book, goes through the hammering process.

A book can consist of three hundred sheets.

As a result of beating, the gold should flatten evenly, without dents or bulges. Only in this case, high-quality and durable gold leaf is obtained.

Gold leaf is available in two versions:

  • transfer glued on sheets of paper,
  • loose, laid between the pages of the book.

The price of free gold leaf is higher than transfer.

In past times, beating was carried out manually with a special hammer. And now there are masters who make gold leaf in the old fashioned way.

Modern gold leaf production is automated. Automation of production several times increased the speed of manufacturing gold leaf and increased its quality. Gold sheets are obtained completely uniform with a minimum thickness.

For different purposes, gold leaf of different thicknesses is used. The thinnest sheets are needed to decorate art and decor. To cover the domes of churches or other elements of architecture, thicker gold leaf is taken.

Gold leaf gilding

There are two main technologies for gilding objects and various surfaces with gold leaf:

  • oil gilding
  • gilding gilding.

In the second case, the gilded surface is more shiny.

Gilded gold leaf gilding is used only for internal work. In this way, mostly wood, sometimes plastic, is gilded.

Oil gilding can be applied on almost any surface - wood, metal, gypsum, plastic. This is a fairly simple, convenient and common way of gilding. This method is called oil because the gold sheet is glued onto oil varnish - mordan. The composition of the varnish can be different, it all depends on the conditions in which the gilded item will be.

Items covered with gold leaf should look smooth, the joints between the sheets should not be visible.

Gold leaf imitation

The price of gold leaf is quite high, therefore, to decorate surfaces, its imitations are often used:

  • potal, precious metal foil,
  • leaf leaves,
  • gilded foil
  • printed metal
  • acrylic paints in aerosols.

Imitation of gold leaf is suitable for gilding interior items, baguettes, stucco moldings, decor elements.

Artists, decorators, as well as everyone who is interested in the process of gilding with gold leaf, can buy leaf sheets and other materials for gilding in the interior decorator in Rostov-on-Don.

Everyone can try their hand at making gilded jewelry with leaf leaves or gilded foil.

Real gold leaf is indispensable for the restoration of antiques, when creating art objects, gilding domes, statues and art objects.

SUNTAN burnt wood wall panels

Decorative plasters in Rostov-on-Don

Tinsel Production

The softness and malleability of pure gold make it possible to roll metal into very thin sheets. Due to these physical properties of the metal, the sheets are obtained without cracks and breaks, that is, they are not damaged during the manufacturing process. The process of manufacturing gold sheets begins with the casting of the bar. An ingot with parameters of 20x5x1 cm is cast from metal, and then it is carefully rolled into a strip. The length of such a strip can reach 30 meters.

How to continue to work with gold leaf? The strip is cut into squares, which are folded together, separated by paper sheets. Before the tinsel can be used for gilding, this book goes under the hammer, practicing about two thousand strokes. Under the strokes of the instrument, the sheets of tinsel become even thinner and form a kind of “cake”. A square is cut out of the “cake” and put into a book.

The most important stage in the production of tinsel is the hammering of gold. This procedure is very laborious and difficult to implement. The hammer must strike so that the blows go not only in a certain sequence, but with the same effort. Compliance with these requirements is mandatory, as it provides the same thickness of gold sheets over their entire area.

In one book there are up to three hundred leaf leaves, each of which after the beating procedure becomes 10 times larger. For the most complete presentation of the process of production of tinsel, it is recommended to familiarize yourself with a video that reflects each stage of the manufacture of thin gold sheets. Working with gold leaf largely depends on the quality of the sheets. If the sheets are made in accordance with all the rules, then the gilding of the product will also meet all quality requirements.

Gilding Tinsel

The technology of gilding with tinsel itself is based on one unusual property of gold: metal rolled to a very small thickness adheres to smooth surfaces at the molecular level. Covering the product with tinsel is a complex process, since working with the thinnest sheets of precious metal requires attention and accuracy. Casting a product from gold is much simpler than covering the same product with tinsel.

An unusual property allows the use of gold leaf to decorate church domes, statues, fountain compositions, as well as furniture used to create a luxurious atmosphere. The technology of applying material throughout the history of mankind has changed. Nowadays, tinsel is used as a packaging for expensive sweets and even as an ingredient in coffee and cocktail drinks.

Among the methods of gilding with tinsel, experts distinguish two options: fixing the precious metal to the polymer and to the mordan. What is their difference? Polement is a kind of foundation on which sheets of tinsel are attached. The basis of the composition of the polymer is clay, to which soap, white beeswax and whale oil are added in small quantities. The peculiarity of this method of gilding can be considered the final result: the surface takes the form of real gold and looks as if made of metal. Fastening the tinsel to the polymer requires large financial and labor costs, therefore, it is used when it is necessary to treat a surface that is not exposed to the external environment. Most often, furniture is so golden.

What is mordan leaf cover? Such processing of the product with gold allows you to give its surface a matte effect. For the procedure, materials based on vegetable oils are used, the Mordan lacquer itself is prepared from flax and hemp oil with the addition of special components. To treat the surface with tinsel in this case is simpler and faster. Mordan mount allows you to decorate a variety of surfaces, including wood, gypsum, and marble.

Before gilding on the face, the surface of the product is primed with cinnabar, and then wiped with cloth to remove bumps. The prepared part is covered with mordan and dried for the required time. Depending on the type of mordan, drying can last from several hours to whole days. Before applying tinsel, the master checks the surface "for sticking." It is very important not to dry the mordan completely, since gold will not adhere well to a dry surface. A dry mordan for gilding with gold leaf is also not suitable, since sheets of material in it will drown. Given the value of gold, all work should be carried out strictly according to technology and very carefully.

Simplified technology

The process of applying gold leaf to the surface can be represented as the following algorithm. Three layers of acrylic primer are applied to the product, while the first layer should be more liquid than all the others. This is necessary in order to saturate the surface. The first and second layer are dried by the hour, after applying the third layer, the product is left to dry for about 8 hours.

The dried surface is ground using abrasive paper, P240 or P400 paper is suitable. Then with a brush we apply varnish-shellac on the product, dry it and grind it again, but with P600 marking paper. After all the preparatory procedures, the part is treated with mordan and dried to the required level of stickiness.

After the mordan has dried to the desired level of stickiness, gold leaf can be applied. The material is applied and pressed with a brush to avoid shifts. After a day, the product can be additionally polished with cotton, which will not damage the gold-plated surface. If you have all the components, this gilding procedure can be done at home.

Modern technologies

The technology of gilding with gold leaf throughout the history of the use of this material for surface finishing has undergone some changes. The essence of the technology for the production of sheets of tinsel remains the same: a bar of precious metal is rolled into a strip, cut into squares, squares are folded into a book and sent under the hammer. New developments allow us to obtain sheets much thinner than those that were made before. The task of the masters is simplified by the use of computer technology.

Now gold leaf is practically not manually produced, outdated technologies are in the past. The process of obtaining thin leafy leaves today is fully automated, everything is done by machine. The electric hammer is configured both for the initial beating of sheets, and for the subsequent processing of precious metals to a minimum thickness. The shells of bovine intestines, which were previously used to lay sheets of tinsel, are also no longer used. Instead, they use modern forms of plastic.

В России изготовлением сусали занимается завод цветных сплавов, находящийся в Москве. Также имеются частные компании, выпускающие сусальное золото, но их объемы производства материала для механического золочения не значительны.

Чтобы понять, как выглядит сусаль, достаточно представить себе очень тонкий лист фольги толщиной до 1,5 микрона. According to domestic standards, the tinsel is produced in square sheets with a side of 91.5 mm. The sheets are laid out in books, the separator between the sheets is tissue paper. Books can consist of 10 or 60 leafs.

In order to imagine how it is necessary to apply gold leaf, it is recommended to watch the video, accompanied by explanations of the master. Specialists distinguish two types of gold leaf: free and transfer. Depending on the type of tinsel, there are differences in working with the material. Free gold is taken out of the book and placed on the pillow, and transfer gold is initially glued to the sheet in the book.

Prerequisites for writing a series of article series

We very often face the fact that wealthy and very wealthy clients do not want "imitation for gold" or coverage "for gold". This is the same as offering a reputable businessman to buy a watch “under the Swiss” or a car “under the Bentley”. Such people want real gold plating. They can afford such a luxury. And besides, real gold is not only beautiful, prestigious, but also durable.

Almost all imitation of gold is based on the fact that first a mirror coating of aluminum, silver or other light metals is applied to the product, and then it is coated with yellow varnish on top. In other words, aluminum, silver or tin provide metallic luster, while yellow lacquer provides the color of gold.

Sometimes brass or bronze is applied. Then it is polished and varnished. There is also a titanium nitride coating, which is similar in color to gold.

All metals used in imitation of gold are oxidized or destroyed under the influence of various substances in the air. Therefore, they are protected by varnishes. And any damage to this varnish will certainly lead to corrosion. For example, a noble metal such as silver is exposed to hydrogen sulfide. Interacting with sulfur compounds, which are always in the air, silver is coated first with a yellow, and then a gray-black film of silver sulfide. By the way, real gold can also be destroyed under the influence of aqua regia, cyanides, mercury and some other poisonous compounds. But you must admit that the probability of a "meeting" of the gold coating with the above substances in the "daily life of gold" is extremely small. Although, when writing this article, our employees joked that in some cities this probability is not so small. But still, let's be optimistic. Let it be only jokes.

Overview of existing gilding technologies

So, let's talk about gilding. Moreover, the gilding of any material - whether it is metal or not metal (dielectric).

We will not copy Internet articles about gilding here. Firstly, you yourself can read about it on the Internet. And secondly - as it turned out, much there simply does not correspond to reality.

Let us say only briefly - there are several basic ways of applying gold - fire, galvanic, vacuum, gold leaf and chemical gilding. The remaining existing methods, for example, by burning or painting with gold, we do not consider.

Galvanic gilding

We dip a metal product in a bath with cyanides or almost without cyanides, connect the plus or minus to the electrodes and get a gold coating. True, the first caveat is that the product must first be polished. And you probably already read in our materials about the complexity of polishing metal. And the second nuance is for large products and large bathtubs with a high content of gold. Since gold is depleted after each gilded part, it is necessary to periodically adjust the contents of the baths, i.e. conduct chemical analysis and add the missing substances. Gold is not well applied to any metal, so often other metals need to be applied before gilding, which means that additional galvanic baths are needed. Naturally, the issue of waste disposal. In general, electroplating is a good thing, but it is very complex, toxic, costly and having many other limitations. The “mazyukalka", as we call it, also refers to electroplating. But, who did not read, read the famous article on tribogalvanics.

You can apply gold and vacuum technology. But due to the complexity and high cost of equipment, we also do not consider this method.

Remained leaf and chemical gilding. Here we dwell in more detail.

Table 2 "The value of gold bullion and gold leaf"

Gold bullion and gold leaf

* Prices are taken from the site view of VAT.

Do not think - we do not consider other people's profits as this table. Generally, the last column is just for fun. Gold leaf should be more expensive - because the process of making such thin sheets of gold is very time-consuming. The main interest for us is the column of the cost of two books of gold leaf from sellers. We must understand that the cost of one meter square for the applied gold can be from 218 to 580 US dollars. And this is without taking into account the work and waste of gold. And it is not for nothing that in the text of this article we often mention the term “ideally”. But, as you know, there is no ideal. This also applies to the consumption of gold per square meter of surface.

The fact is, gold leaf is not superimposed “butt”, but “overlap”. Naturally, part of the gold does not stick to the surface, but is swept away with a brush during processing. Watch any gilding video on the Internet. And you will see small slides of gold leaf remnants. Of course, it is not thrown away, but used for patches (flick), or then “created gold” is prepared from it. And with a large amount of waste, it is possible that they will be sold at the price of gold to the appropriate organizations. But if we want to really calculate the initial investment for gilding one meter of square surface, then this waste factor should also be taken into account.

Gillers on the Internet often voice such information - on average, one book of gold leaf is enough for 0.35 square meters. meters of surface of medium complexity. And this means that for gilding you need not two books, as we thought, but about 2.86. Then the table of gilding costs looks very different:

Table 3 "The actual correspondence of weight and thickness when coated with gold leaf"

The real match of weight and thickness when coated with gold leaf

Now we have a more or less clear picture of how much money you need to spend to cover with a gold leaf one square meter of a not too difficult surface. And you yourself understand, the more complex the monogram is on the surface, the more gold waste you will receive. As mentioned above, this waste is not disposed of. But you will not be able to return them back at the price of gold leaf. In the best case, you will use it as “created gold” or simply donate it as scrap gold. Meticulous readers themselves can calculate the difference in such losses. We will continue.

As you can see, gilding is not a cheap pleasure, even simply because of the price of gold itself. And we brought the value of the so-called "free" gold. And there is also a “transfer” - it is more convenient to work with, but also more expensive, respectively.

So, let’s remember some of the numbers from the tables (highlighted in red in the tables): for comparison, we choose the average thickness of the gold coating by gold leaf method - 0.207 microns. The weight of gold for coating 1 m2 is 4 g. The cost (including "overlaps" and waste) of gold to cover 1 m2 using gold leaf technology is $ 463 - remember this figure!

Repeat again:

Gold leaf for coating on 1 m2 with an average coating thickness of 0.207 microns requires 4 g. gold worth $ 463!

The end of the first part.

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