METAL LEAFING Throughout history, the art and craft of leafing has been used to create and embellish some of humanity’s most revered works of art. Egyptian relics, Far Eastern Temples, illuminated manuscripts and fine art have been leafed and embellished by artistians. And it’s easy to see why. The process of leafing can be employed on wood, metal, ivory, leather, paper, glass, porcelain, and fabrics. Leaf can be worked in delicate miniature as well as on architectural structures such as domes and vaults. For any art or application, there is a metal leafing technique.
THE PROCESS AND THE PRODUCT: The ancient process of making metal leaf was difficult and time-consuming. Craftsmen would place a small piece of metal into what was called a “goldbeater’s skin.” This skin was made from the outer membrane of a calf’s intestine, which is transparent, elastic and will not rip or tear during the long hours of hammering required to create a piece of leaf. Today of course, the process is made far easier through the use of computerized beating machines. But even with modern equipment, the creation of metal leaf is tricky and very time-consuming. Though the core difficulty remains. Each piece of gold must be flattened, cut and flattened again. To create a final sheet of flattened material this may have to happen hundreds of thousands of times. This is why even today there are only a few manufacturers around the world who can produce high-quality metal leaf.