|Gold is valued both for its natural beauty and because it can be fashioned into most intricate and satisfying shapes and preserves for centuries it's luster and color. It's high melting point and malleability mean that it can be worked and beaten microscopically thin, so thin that it can be used to adorn, encase or cover an object, giving it the appearance of solid gold. The art of beating gold leaf and gilding dates back to ancient Egypt. Egyptian craftsmen beat gold into fine sheets by laying the gold on a flat stone then beating it with another stone.
Todays gold beaters have entered the world of high technology with computerized beating machines and modern substitutes of essential raw materials. Nowadays, only a handful of gold beating companies around the world produce gold leaf, one of them is the factory of Alfred and Ursula Weyermann in Seaford, Melbourne Australia.
The pure gold used, which arrives in granules is mined in Australia, mainly Western Australia. It is then processed and melted with differing proportions of Silver, Copper or Palladium to form the required alloy. This makes a wide range of colors available to the gilder.
The transformation of everday objects has lured many of people into the spell of gilding. The rich glow of gilded picture and mirror frames, ornaments and decorative items has kindled a desire to learn the art of gilding.
Gilding can be addictive, once you have mastered the initial hurdles, the desire to go on and repeating and perfecting the process becomes overwhelming.
There are two main types of gilding: oil, and water gilding. The names indicate the method by which the metal leaf is applied to the surface. Oil gilding is the cheaper and easier method for applying gold leaf. The advantage of oil gilding is that it can be applied to any smooth non-porous surface, so a piece of furniture, or a frame, only needs to be painted beforehand. The disadvantage is that it cannot be burnished. Traditional water gilding is complicated to learn, more expensive in labour, but much more beautiful. Gesso must be used, as the burnishing which takes place soon after the gold has been layed actually compresses the softened gesso ground so creating a smooth, polished surface to which the gold is melted in an apparently solid mass.
The cost of the gold leaf is small in comparison to the amount of time needed to prepare a piece for gilding. In recent years, new products have entered the market thus greatly reducing the preperation time. One system is called the Kolner system and was invented by a German scientist named Paul Brauer. The Kolner system uses acrylic and synthetic techniques to water gild and has resulted in a boom for experienced and novice gilders alike.
Kolner bypasses the soaking of rabbit skin glue, gesso preperation and sanding that often daunts the professional gilder and the student of gilding alike. The end result is a finished gilding that is lustrous in matte gilding and brilliant when burnished.
Another revolutionary new system for exterior and interior leafing with gold, silver and metal leaf was developed by the same person which invented the Kolner system. A brilliant mirror gloss finish is achieved without agate burnishing using patent/transfer gold leaf. The gilder can create high gloss gilt surfaces on a variety of interior and exterior projects. As with all creative work, experience will result in fine gilded objects.