Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Because gold is highly malleable, it can be worked into sheets just micrometres in thickness without breaking or tearing. Gold leaf is used for the decorative technique called gilding, and has been used for thousands of years in a variety of cultures.
Gold leaf can be applied to nearly any non-porous surface. The usual technique involves applying a thin layer of gesso or an adhesive to the surface to be decorated. This adhesive can be applied in any desired pattern, if the entire surface is not to be covered. The sheets of gold are then lifted by static electricity using soft brushes. The gold is so thin that any moving air or excess static electricity can cause unsatifactory results. The decorator then gently lowers the leaf onto the surface, where it is held in place by the adhesive. The goal is to apply the thinnest layer needed, as mistakes with gold are often costly.
The sheets often wrinkle when placed, generally the desired appearance. The surface of the gold leaf after application will have many different facets and creases, giving a diffuse luminance rather than a smooth, reflective surface.
Depending on the application, other decorations may be added to enhance the gold. In automotive and motorcycle work, pin striping is painted on where the leafed and non-leafed areas meet. In other decorating, borders of any kind, often wood or paint, are used. Some small items are completely covered in gold leaf.
The leafed areas can also be worked by brushes of different textures after being applied. This give the surface a pattern, and is a common finishing technique.
Gold leaf has also recently become available pre-glued to a vinyl or paper backing, which can be cut to any desired shape and installed like a sticker.
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