Contrary to what you might think, there are actually a wide variety of types of metal leaf. Different brands offer different options when it comes to the metal leaf types they sell, and you can achieve many different surface results depending on the types of metal leaf you choose.
In this article, we’ll go over the many types of metal leaf you may come across and explain the difference between each. Let’s gear up to go over the details.
Are There Different Types of Gold Leaf?
Yes, there are many different types of gold leaf.
Gold leaf can come in imitation gold and genuine gold forms, but there are distinctions, even within these realms. For example, some types of gold leaf may be 23 karats or less, and within this range of lesser karats, you can expect the color of the leaf to change. In contrast, gold leaf that is above 23 carats is considered genuine, however, only 24 karat gold is 100% pure.
Remember also that there is imitation gold leaf, and this type of leaf typically contains no gold at all. Instead, it is usually a metal alloy blend of copper and silver that helps achieve its” fool’s gold” color.
What Are the Different Types of Gold and Metal Leaf?
There are many different types of gold and metal leaf. Although we’ve done our best to detail most metal and gold leaf varieties, you should bear in mind that there may be variations of these types also not mentioned here.
In addition, you should know that you may find leaf types that are a combination of one or two of the types mentioned below. For example, you may find a metal leaf variety that is “loose leaf genuine gold”. This is a combination of both a loose leaf and gold leaf type.
The following are the most common types of metal leaf and gold leaf you may find on the market:
- Pure gold leaf – As mentioned before, pure gold leaf is gold leaf that is made up of 23 karats or more. This type of gold leaf does not require varnish, top coat, or sealant after application. In fact, the appearance of true gold will change if you attempt to use any sort of wax or topcoat over it. Remember that genuine gold leaf will not tarnish, so there’s no need to feel anxious about not applying varnish over it at the end of a project.
- “Regular” gold leaf (less than 23 karats) – Gold leaf that is less than 23 karats will usually simply be referred to as “gold leaf” or even “genuine” gold leaf. It will also often indicate exactly how many karats it is, and sometimes may even detail what other types of metal are used in the production of the leaf. This type of gold leaf is delicate much like its genuine gold counterpart and should be handled with care. This type of gold leaf does require a topcoat of sorts to ensure that it doesn’t tarnish as time goes on.
- Edible metal leaf – Edible metal leaf can come in imitation, genuine, or “regular” leaf types. As the name would suggest, this type of metal leaf can be consumed in moderation without any ramifications to your health. It’s important that if you choose to consume this leaf that you confirm its source and that you buy from reputable sellers as some metal leaf types, such as silver leaf, may masquerade as genuine when really it is made up only of aluminum.
- Transfer leaf – Transfer metal leaf refers to leaves that are affixed to tissue or wax paper for easy application. This makes it easier to “transfer” your gold leaf to a surface and is particularly helpful when working on larger surface areas.
- Loose leaf – Loose leaf metal leaf won’t have the backing that transfer leaf does. This often makes it easier to apply to deep crevices and beveled surfaces. Because it doesn’t have a wax or tissue paper baking, it may seem trickier to lay when attempting optimal leaf coverage. Because of this, it may be best to wait until you’ve had ample experience with metal leaf before taking on loose leaf metal leaf types.
- Metal leaf roll – A metal leaf roll is metal leaf that hadn’t been cut into small squares or sheets, but instead, is one continuous strip that allows you optimal leaf coverage on large projects and surfaces.
- Variegated leaf – Variegated leaf is a specially treated metal leaf and comes in a variety of interesting colors and patterns. Their hues can range from yellow, slight blue tones, and even red variegated leaf, giving you ample space and opportunity to create a creatively colorful surface. Just note that patterns may vary by pack and by brand so no two sheets are likely to look the same.
- Pure aluminum – Also known as imitation silver leaf, aluminum leaf can be purchased from a variety of suppliers. Its price point will be lower than that of genuine silver and it won’t likely come in edible form the way that silver leaf sometimes can.
- Platinum leaf – Platinum leaf can be found sold at a variety of suppliers, but please be aware that it can be expensive. This is a regal, sophisticated, and luxurious option for gilding your surfaces. It is another type of metal leaf, like genuine gold leaf, that will not tarnish or corrode over time.
- Copper leaf – Copper leaf is genuine copper that can be used to gild surfaces. Be aware that though genuine, copper leaf does tarnish, and thus, does require sealant.
- Silver leaf – Silver leaf is, usually, pure silver. But you’ll need to trust and know your supplier well to ensure what you are buying is genuine and not aluminum. This is especially true if you are purchasing edible silver leaf since aluminum leaf should not be eaten. Silver will also need varnish or topcoat, since it will also tarnish over time.
- Brass leaf – Brass leaf, or composition leaf, may be sold as faux gold leaf and will take on the same standard function that gold leaf does. It will require a top coat or vanish since it will often oxidize and change color without proper sealant.
- Imitation leaf – Also known as “dutch metal leaf”, is a non-genuine form of any type of metal leaf. Imitation gold, imitation silver, imitation copper, and more all exist. Some types of imitation leaf are also edible, but you’ll want to ensure the leaf is marketed that way before eating it.
The Types of Metal Leaf Are Endless!
As you can see, there are many different types of metal leaf, and all serve different functions. We hope you’ve found this article informative and helpful on your journey to learning any and everything about the wonderful world of gilding.
Gilding can take on many forms from different methods of gilding to different leaves used. These include oil and water gilding, in addition to all the types of gilding leaves mentioned above in this post.
Edible gold leaf comes in both imitation and genuine gold types. Just be sure that the package says “edible” before attempting to eat gold leaf.