Gold leaf

DEFINITION

Thin, delicate sheets of gold, they are usually obtained from a book of 25 three-inch sheets that can be removed individually by a delicate process. Gold Leaf, which is literally gold beaten into flat leaves, can be put on board or paper. Because gold is inert, it does not tarnish, so it retains its ability to lend elegance to works of art. A person correctly applying Gold Leaf first puts down sizing, lets it dry until sticky, and then attaches it to the sized surface by using a small brush and a leaf lifter, which is a small piece of clear plastic activated by rubbing it on one's arm to charge it with static electricity. Then the the leaf-lifter is used to pick up the delicate sheets of gold, usually in three-inch squares between tissue paper, and places them on the sized surface. The next step is burnishing, which is rubbing the leaf so that it adheres. Standard Gold Leaf is 23.5 carats, with about 2000 leaves weighing one ounce. However, variations are available such as lemon gold (18.5 carats) and pale gold (16 carats). Gold Leaf can enhance a work by suggesting grandeur or wealth or divinity as expressed in the artwork of Judeo-Christian religion. It has been used throughout western history on sculpture, church domes, picture frames, decorations, manuscript illuminations, and religious paintings suggesting haloes, etc. Sources: Anne Heywood, 'All That Glitters is Gold', "The Pastel Journal", December 2005, pp. 23; Ralph Mayer, "A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques".

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