Imitation gold leaf or genuine gold leaf?
You CAN use genuine gold leaf in place of imitation
gold leaf, but the various lacquers and glazes we apply, in the final result, make it difficult to tell which
is which, see the picture below.
There are advantages to using imitation leaf. As
well as being much cheaper than real gold leaf, it is a little thicker and so is easier to handle,
and this makes a BIG difference if you are considering gilding for the first time. You can actually
handle this leaf with your fingers, something you could never do with genuine gold leaf.
The types of finishes we are going to apply over the leaf will change the appearance of the leaf, to the point
where it is difficult to tell genuine gold leaf from imitation.
Below are two examples of gilded wood both with a crackle glaze and two separate antique glazes applied to them.
One was gilded with 23 carat gold leaf, the other with imitation leaf. As you can see it is difficult to tell them
When gilding with genuine gold leaf to be used outside it is customary to apply a coat of varnish to the leaf,
we do the same when using imitation leaf, to prevent the leaf from tarnishing.
You can use most any clear or tinted varnish but if using the crackle glaze, which is water based, it is
important to use an oil or spirit based varnish/lacquer, as a water based acrylic varnish would affect the water
based crackle glaze.
I use blonde de waxed shellac, which is mixed 1 part shellac to 4 parts methylated spirits or de-natured
alcohol. Just put the mixture into a glass jar with a sealable top and allow to stand for 36 hours, stirring
occasionally, when you can see that all the shellac has dissolved, it is ready to use.
The alcohol will evaporate, so when not in use keep the jar tightly sealed.
The next page tells you all about imitation gold leaf