Throughout most of human history, there has been one substance that has managed to carry its popularity to modern times. Gold. This metal is wildly famous for both aesthetic and practical purposes. Nothing beats the entrancing feel that gold provides.
So it’s only natural that people would want to take advantage of that. As a result, they want to cover as many surfaces as possible with gold.
Enter – the gold leaf. Now, the question here is, how is gold leaf made? What is gold leaf made of, even? Keep reading to find out.
Starting with the ancient Egyptians – who are considered the first to initiate diversifying the use of gold, then to the Middle Ages, and all the way to our present time – this sparkly decoration hasn’t shied away from making an appearance in many different endeavours. It has shined in literature – where its purpose was to gild manuscripts and edgings of paper. It sparkled in art – framing priceless masterpieces. Architecture has been using gold covers to enfold everything from ornamental designs to churches.
Nowadays, you can even find edible gold leaf on top of your hamburger. Yes, it’s made its way into the kitchen, as well.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Gold Leaf?
- What Is Gold Leaf Made Of?
- How Gold Leaf Is Made?
- History of Making Gold – Into the Depths of It
- A Conclusion of Golden Thoughts
What Is a Gold Leaf?
A gold leaf is a fancy way to decorate the stuff you like. But, to bring details into the picture – a gold leaf is a type of metal leaf, even though this name is very rarely used. This is due to its connection to thin metals sheets that don’t really contain any real gold. The gold leaf is a product of processing pure gold by the method of gold beating.
What Is Gold Leaf Made Of?
Gold leaf is typically made from pure gold that has been hammered into extremely thin sheets. These sheets are so thin that they are translucent and can be easily manipulated.
The gold can be alloyed with small amounts of other metals like silver or copper to increase its strength and durability. The alloyed gold is then melted and poured into a mold to form a bar or ingot. This is imitation gold leaf, not edible gold leaf, which should be pure gold leaf.
What Is Edible Gold Leaf Made Of?
You may be surprised to hear that edible gold leaf is the same final product we have been describing here. There is no separate method for producing it. And, yes, it’s safe to eat or drink gold – as it is considered biologically inert – which means it can safely be ingested – since it passes through our system without being absorbed.
How Gold Leaf Is Made?
Much like the gold itself with its popularity, the process of making this type of leaf kept the same principles since ancient times. Even today, the production is very similar to the one that the master gilders in ancient Egypt used. Similar, but not quite the same.
Firstly, to start this process, what is needed is pure gold. Pure gold ranges between 22 and 24k.
Fun fact – gold in its purest form is actually quite soft, so in order to grow its structural strength – this softy needs some additional help. This help comes in the form of other metals, like copper and silver, in minuscule quantities. They are integrated into the mixture to provide the required structure for smooth production.
Now, the fact that gold is such a malleable metal is what works in its favour of being processed into edible gold leaf. So basically, if you are wondering – is gold leaf real gold – the answer is yes. This golden cover is still the same gold that started the process, with the difference of being put through a few life-changing modifications.
Let’s go into a bit more detail here.
The process that creates the gold leaf is known as gold beating. The name, being pretty self-explanatory, leaves little to the imagination on what is actually happening here. Yes, the gold is getting beaten down and pounded down until it reaches the form of a thin gold leaf sheet. And, voila – we have the precious gold leaf.
History of Making Gold – Into the Depths of It
As mentioned before – this is a truly old process. Now, the ancient Egyptians – who keep coming up wherever gold leaf is mentioned – have substituted the usage of hammers with round stones – a practice that enabled them to thin out that sheet of gold to the very minimum.
However, we did manage to bring a touch more of sophistication to the process of how gold leaf is made, in our modern times. No offence to the Egyptians, but the careful planning of this new system has brought some improvements to the final result.
Here and now, the gold alloy is placed in a crucible, where it gets melted down. Once melted, it’s poured into a bar mould. This bar needs to be cast at the correct size. Now is the time to bring in the gold rollers. The gold rollers, containing the bar inside, are turning slowly and repeatedly. With each new repetition, the gap between the rollers is slightly reduced, which ensures the flattening of the bar into a thin gold stripe.
After the gold rollers have completed their job -we go back to the beating and pounding. This is the final step in the production of the golden goodness – where the ultimate thinness is achieved.
A Conclusion of Golden Thoughts
So, to sum everything up – the process of making gold leaf is ancient. It goes back around 5000 years. During this massive amount of time – this process suffered very few changes, meaning that we are still using the same basic principles of gold beating – with a few added modern changes.
A simple explanation of how real gold leaf is made would be something like this – pure gold is being pressed into special gold rollers to achieve the desired thinness, after which it is beaten and pounded down until the final product comes out. It may sound like a simple process, but it requires delicacy and patience.
Gold leaf comes from gold beating. It is a slow and delicate process that transforms the gold metal into extremely thin leaves. Only pure gold is used in creating the glamourous addition – one ranging between 22 and 24K. The thinness is reached by putting the pure gold in gold rollers, that slowly and repeatedly press it even further into thin layers.
The process doesn’t end here, since after the gold rollers have completed their job – the gold is still subjected to beating and pounding so that it can reach that perfect gold leaf thinness. The one light as a feather and almost see-through on direct light.
Edible gold leaf, most commonly used for deserts, doesn’t actually have a separate making process. Gold is a metal that is considered to be biologically inert (doesn’t get absorbed by the body), so the same beaten and pounded gold that can be used on a wooden picture frame, can also be used to top your birthday or wedding cake. It might prove rather complicated if you try and make it yourself, so the best option you have is to find a quality provider and treat yourself with their products.
Make sure to purchase real edible quality gold leaf, not imitation gold leaf, which is not edible!
Yes, edible gold leaf is generally considered to be expensive. The cost of edible gold leaf can vary depending on factors such as quality, purity, and brand. Traditional gold leaf is made by hammering gold into extremely thin sheets, often as thin as 1/8000th of a millimeter. This delicate and time-consuming process, combined with the inherent value of real gold, contributes to the higher price of edible gold leaf.
Gold flakes, also known as gold leaf flakes or gold foil flakes, are typically made of genuine gold. They are created by beating or hammering gold into extremely thin sheets and then cutting or tearing those sheets into smaller pieces, resulting in delicate, irregularly shaped flakes. Gold flakes can be made from various types of gold, including 24-karat pure gold or gold alloys with lower karat values. Make sure to get pure gold for your edible gold foil or edible gold flakes.