If you’re new to the world of gold leafing, it is likely that you’re interested in learning more about different types of gold leaf. Gold leaf comes in several varieties that differ in weight, size, color, and more.

Ready to learn more? Be sure to stick around. We’re diving into all the details right now.

Table of Contents

Types Of Gold Leaf

What Is Gold Leaf?

Gold leaf is a type of metal leaf that is pounded into thin sheets and used to decorate many objects including frames, walls, vases, hardware, statues, and so much more. Gold leaf can be dated as far back as the Byzantine Empire, as both Byzantine and Roman churches utilized gold leaf in their architectural structures.

Today, gold leaf is used in ways that include the repair of old antiquated pieces to the gilding of brand new objects. It can also be used for paper art in relation to calligraphy and adding eye-grabbing highlights to painted pieces.

Is All Gold Leaf the Same?

No, all gold leaf isn’t the same.

Gold leaf comes in several forms that make this decorative material unique. Choose between high or low karat gold types or gold leaf of different thickness. You can also choose between transfer leaf, loose leaf, and even imitation leaf types.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the gold leaf types available.

What Are the Different Types of Gold Leaf?

As mentioned, gold leaf comes in various types. Consider the following gold leaf characteristics to help you distinguish one from the other.

Are There Different Sizes of Gold Leaf?

When it comes to the size of a gold leaf, you can expect to be faced with a few options.

In terms of weight, gold leaf is measured in terms of 1,000 leaves. For gold leaf used on outdoor surfaces, you can expect to need to choose between a weight of 18-23 grams per 1,000 leaves. Gold leaf of this weight tends to do very well in extreme outdoor conditions, especially when applied with the oil size.

In terms of dimension, gold leaf typically comes in a variety of sizes, with popular sizes including 3 3/8″ x 3 3/8″ (European sizing), 3 1/8″ x 3 1/8″ (Asian sizing), or other specialty sizes depending on where you shop. There are also metal leaf rolls available that work to cover a large surface area at a much more efficient pace than applying gold leaf by hand would yield.

Which of these would work best for you will depend largely upon your project and overall needs.

Are There Different Grades of Gold Leaf?

Yes, there are many different grades of gold leaf. There are also many types of metal leaf. These include the following:

  • 24-23.5 karat gold leaf: This is the purest form of you can acquire. 24 karat values indicate roughly 99.9% real gold. Industrially speaking, 23.5 karat gold is typically the standard for use.
  • 12 karat gold leaf: Made up of 50% gold, 12 karat leaf is often mixed with silver and other metals. It is less expensive but won’t have the warm yellow hue or durability that true gold offers.
  • Imitation gold leaf: Imitation gold leaf is made from brass alloy containing a variety of metals. In this case, the gold isn’t real, although it gives off a similar color and sheen.
  • Genuine silver leaf: Genuine silver leaf is amazing for decorative purposes and is used in much the same way as genuine gold leaf. Just be sure to seal this metal leaf after application; unlike genuine gold leaf, it does tarnish over time.
  • Imitation silver leaf: Imitation silver leaf is made from a combination of metal to give the same color and sheen as pure silver leaf, but without at a less expensive price point.
  • Genuine copper leaf: Genuine copper leaf is made from 100% copper. It, too, is a wonderful way to add color and pizazz to interior or exterior decor. Like silver leaf, it will require sealant.
  • Imitation copper leaf: Imitation copper leaf isn’t genuine copper but does give off a similar effect.
  • Edible Gold leaf (and other edible metal leaf types): Edible metal leaf is all the rage, and it isn’t hard to see why. While it may seem weird to add pure gold leaf to cakes and cupcakes, the truth is that it’s totally normal, provided that you use the metal leaf specifically marked as “edible”. Never use “regular gold leaf” purchased at craft stores when gilding food.

In addition to the above metal lead types, it is important to note that other gold leaf types exist. These include white gold leaf sheets as well as other different colors and shades, to help you achieve the look you want for various decorative purposes.

What Is the Difference Between Loose and Transfer Gold Leaf?

While searching for high quality gold leaf you may have come across two different leaf types: loose form and transfer leaf form. So, what’s the difference? Transfer leaf has a backing on it that makes it easier to maneuver with the human hand. It is ideal for outdoor use as it doesn’t blow away as easily as loose leaves.

So, why bother with loose leaves at all? Loose leaf doesn’t come with a backing, but it is recommended for use on highly detailed or intricate textured pieces. Transfer leaf, when used on these types of objects, won’t work well.

Types Of Gold Leaf

There Are Many Types of Gold Leaf Out There: Choose What’s Best For You!

As you can see, different types of gold leaf exist. Gold leaf and other metal leaf types exist to give gilders more control over how their final piece will look and perform. Remember that while silver and copper leaf will typically come only in imitation and pure forms, metal leaf containing gold content may have a range of karat values.

Be sure to do your research in order to make an informed decision about which metal leaf will work best for your large or small projects. As mentioned, there are some that will require a protective finish and others that will not.

There’s a lot to unwrap concerning this interesting topic, but we hope this has served as a good starting place. Thanks for reading!


Is gilding the same as gold leaf?

No, gilding isn’t the same as gold leaf. Gold leaf is hammered gold. Gilding is the act of applying gold leaf to a surface.

How can you tell if a gold leaf is real?

Typically the manufacturer will label the gold leaf as 23.5 karat or 24 karat gold. In addition, real gold leaf won’t tarnish provided that it hasn’t been sealed. Gold leaf that isn’t real will tarnish over time.

What is gold leaf vs gold foil?

These two terms are often used synonymously, but gold foil can sometimes refer to gold that is thicker than gold leaf, and thus, is often easier to work with.

Does gold have grades?

Yes. Gold leaf either comes as pure gold, imitation, or somewhere in between. Refer back to this post for more details.

Get 10% OFF on your first order

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% discount on your first order. Check your inbox for the discount code and use it at checkout!

*Terms and conditions apply

You have Successfully Subscribed!