Wednesday, July 6, 2016

There is Gold Leaf and then there is Water Gilt

Wooden Gilt Lamp Base..note flowers have more sheen

There are a lot of frames that claim to be gold leaf.  Knowing what you really have in front of you when you go to buy a piece is being able to see into the piece.What is gold leafing and what is water gilt?  Most frames that you will find today are merely "gold" leaf, and most of these are done with imitation gold leaf which is actually very thin brass leaf.  The same goes for silver leafing today which mostly is aluminum leafing.  Years ago my father did gold leafing and I remember going into his shop and seeing tiny bits of powdery gold fluttering in the air.  These were the tiny pieces that did not adhere to the frame.

Nineteenth Century Water Gilt frame

Gold leafing is the layering of a tissue thin sheet of gold over a surface.  The surface needs to be prepared with a sizing and the the leaf is gently applied on to this surface. Today this is usually an imitation gold leaf.  When this is used the piece needs to be varnish to retain the gold sheen.  Older gold leafing was done like this but with real gold leaf.

Gold leaf chair on wood note the difference in color/tone
Water gilding differs greatly from gold leafing.  Water gilding is gold leaf that is applied over Armenian clay, or red gesso, referred to as a bol. The gold leaf is then applied very delicately as the real gold leaf is very thin and can easily blow around.   Once the gold leaf is applied then an agate tooth shaped burnisher is used to burnish the gold itself.  This gives the gold a luster and sheen that you do not find in regular gold leafing.

Water Gilt Frames

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