Yellow and bright , gold is undoubtedly the king of metals.
Gold leaves are mainly used by gilders, illuminators and restorers of art and historical monuments, and more recently by luxury pastry and chocolate makers.
Hammered gold leaf has been in existance for a long time, found in ancient egypt used to decorate sarcophagi and in 5th century BC india used by pilgrims to decorate Buddhist statues, and then later braught to europe by the Phoenicians.
This precious metal has excellent qualities, it does not oxidize in air, water, or acid, and is the most malleable of all metals.
The golden drummer business (batteur d’or) has not changed much since ancient times.
Today some machines have made this activity , which was done entierly by hand until the ninteenth century, much easier.
How to transform a 1 kilogram ingot into thousands of small leaves of a thickness of about a tenth of a micron or 0.0001 mm?
First the gold ingot is melted at a temperature of over 1100°C, it’s during this process that the color and carat of the gold leaf are determined.
Copper and silver are added to the gold to give the desired hardness and color, there are approximately sixteen tones ranging from a redish gold (with a larger amount of copper) to a white gold ( with a larger amount of silver).
The ingot is then passed through a rolling mill several times to obtain an even strip of about 8m long, which is then cut into pieces of 1cm, these pieces are then placed one by one in a Cauchet (small box ) and are then beaten with a 5kg hammer, which makes the leaves bigger and thinner. This operation is repeated until the leaf thickness is about 9 000.
Putting the leaves into the booklet is the most delicate operation, each leaf is carefully lifted using long wooden tongs and placed between two sheets of tissue paper, which have been rubbed with armania bowl, to prevent the gold leaf from sticking to the paper.
Once the booklet of 25 leaves is full, it is placed between two wooden planks and compressed,the excess gold leaf is then cut off the edges , collected, then remelted.
The gold leaves are finally ready to be used by us, the retorers of gilted wood (frames, mirrors, furniture, statues, monuments).