Ever wondered how specialty mirror makers do their thing? Ever wanted to do your own glass gilding? How do they get silver leaf on glass? And how can you get a piece of the action?

Well, let’s find out shall we, as we explore the ins and outs of glass gilding for silver leaf!

Table of Contents

Applying Silver Leaf To Glass

History of Glass Gilding

Applying silver leaf to glass is a technique that has been employed for centuries by sign makers, lettering specialists, and specialty mirror makers. Glass gilding is also known as ‘Reverse Gilding on Glass’ and/or ‘Verre Eglomise’.

Verre Eglomise specifically refers to the technique of applying gold or silver leaf to glass for furniture, objects, and specialty silver mirror makers. This is an old-world technique with a rich history in the decorative arts, the basic steps of which are straightforward so long as you use the correct materials, the right know-how, and a bit of patience.

Glass gilding of this kind employs a specific type of adhesive glue known as gelatin size, which is dissolved in warm water and floated over the glass surface. While still wet or pooling, the silver is immediately applied so that, once dry, there is no discolorization when viewing the silver through the glass and adhesive layer.

There are a number of special brushes used specifically for applying gelatin size glue to glass, though you can technically do it with any old thing.

Though this process will focus on silver leaf, gold, silver, and most other varieties of metal leaf can all be used in the process of glass gilding, though preferably not imitation silver leaf on glass.

Gilding Glass Yourself

Now you know a bit about the history of glass gilding and silver leaf on glass, you can begin to think about how you might like to go about it yourself.

What You Will Need

  • Glass item
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Silver leaf sheets or flakes
  • Adhesive
  • Small paintbrush
  • Chip brush
  • Shallow cardboard box

Step 1: Cleaning

You will need a clean base layer of glass before applying silver leaf to it. If you remove stickers or labels and have gummy residue, try using lemon essential oil or Goo Gone, etc. to remove it. Both work just fine, just like any other home solution you might have will work.

Next, clean the glass with warm soapy water and wipe it down with isopropyl alcohol. You can also use a microfiber cloth for this step to ensure no lint is left on the glass, though you could also just use a paper towel – both work fine!

Step 2: Working Area

Use a shallow cardboard box to keep the silver leaf flakes contained for an easier clean-up.

This is an indoor craft, so setting up a solid base of operations is vital from the very beginning. Close all windows and doors, so you won’t have a breeze blow your flakes around or introduce any foreign contaminants to the mix.

Step 3: Applying Adhesive

Next, paint on the adhesive wherever you plan to add silver leaf to the glass.

Preferably use an old paintbrush or one that you don’t mind getting ruined as this can be a pretty destructive process. This adhesive is pretty thin, so use a light hand to paint it on because it will run if it’s too thick. If that happens, just wipe it off the glass with a damp cloth and begin again.

Learn as you paint and don’t be afraid to experiment – for instance, you can turn your object upside down to dry, so that the glue would droop a bit for a more organic look.

The adhesive should dry completely before applying any silver leaf – The surface will feel slightly tacky but it should be clear – though you can speed this up with a hairdryer.

Step 4: Applying the Silver Leaf

You can just stick the gold, copper, or silver leaf on the glass wherever you’ve applied adhesive. You can use flakes but metallic loose leaf also comes in sheets, which might be slightly easier to apply in larger sections.

Keep applying the leaf until the adhesive is entirely covered and don’t be concerned if it all looks a little messy at this point.

Use a chip brush to smooth the silver leaf over the glass surface – this chip brush will also help dust off any extra flakes that haven’t already adhered to the surface. At this point, you should begin to see a final, smoothly gilded surface emerge.

Keep brushing the glass with the chip brush until all of the extra metallic leaf is brushed away and the surface looks smoothly covered.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Thankfully, you can reuse any of the leaf flakes that were scraped off of the project during application. Shake the scraps into the corner of the box top and then carefully pack them back into the jar for another DIY project another day.

Ensure you keep the flakes contained because they can end up all over your workspace if a breeze (or sneeze) blows through.

Step 6: Sealing

Seal the silver leaf with ‘Gilder’s Back-up Paint’ or ‘Gilder’s Back-up Varnish’.

Often, silver gilding is painted over to protect and seal the gold as well as increase the reflectivity and luster of the gold, as seen through the front of the glass or mirror. This color can affect the Gold tone slightly. Using a Terracotta Red will warm the silver while using Black can make it appear bolder and colder.

Yellow, on the other hand, tends to mellow the Gold and add depth. Alternatively, you can skip the paint layer and back up the letter forms or graphics directly with clear back-up varnish.

If you do choose to use paint, though, be sure to add a final layer of clear varnish over the painted surface.

Applying Silver Leaf To Glass

Final Words

So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are leaving here with a rich tapestry of new information which you can take forth and share with the world.

FAQs Silver Leaf on Glass

Can you use silver leaf on glass?

Gold, silver, and most other forms of metal leaf can all be used in gilding on glass. So long as you use a proper base coat of water-based size, you will be absolutely fine and the leaf will adhere to whatever you have applied the adhesive to.

How do you apply silver leaf to glass?

Clean the pane of glass well and then apply the liquid adhesive to the surface. With a gilder’s tip, apply gold or silver leaf to the wet glass surface. Then, with a brush, coat the not-yet-gilded glass surface with the liquid adhesive again and again to keep it wet as the silver leaf will not stick to a dry pane of glass.

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