Since pure gold is an element, not a compound or alloy, it can be compressed to nearly the atomic level without destroying its structure. This means gold could literally be pounded in a layer so thin sunlight could pass through it. This property of gold is essential to the creation of gold leaf. During ancient times, craftsmen would create gold leaf by placing a quantity of gold between two leather straps and pounding it by hand for weeks or months until the gold became exceptionally thin.
Gold leaf is an ultra-thin layer of pure gold used by crafters to create a gilded appearance on projects such as picture frames, sculptures and book bindings. The application of gold leaf through a process known as water gilding can be very labor-intensive and challenging for beginners. Gold leaf is extremely fragile by nature, and will adhere to almost any moistened surface. Professional gilders suggest it could take months of practice to become proficient at handling gold leaf.The gold leaf could then be applied to paintings, sculptures and other religious or royal artifacts.
(Imitation Gold Leaf)Unless you're a craft hobbyist or make your own jewelry you're unlikely to buy genuine gold leaf directly. Instead you'll find it used to decorate jewelry or other items such as pendants or chandeliers. It was also used on many older statues before electroplating techniques became available. The use of fine leaf metal provides the visual appeal of gold at an affordable cost. The downside is that, being a thin coating, it can sometimes be prone to scratching or other wear and tear.
When working with gold leaf, it is important to remain exceptionally patient and to have the proper tools and materials at hand. Preparing a project for water gilding often involves building up the surface by applying several layers of gesso, a material used by artists to create texture on canvas. After building up the surface with gesso, another material called a bole is applied to the object to be gilded. This bole is a mixture of clay and water, which provides an adhesive layer for the gold leaf. Because water must be on the surface of the bole precisely when the gold leaf is applied, the gilder must work quickly and deliberately.