Everything You Need To Know About The Traditional Craft Of Goldbeating

words Adriana Wren

There are hundreds of crafts which used to involve making something by hand.

Goldbeating is one such craft. There are very few places that still offer gold leaf created traditionally. A good goldbeater, such as Manetti, the gold leaf supplier in Florence, Italy, can produce thinner gold leaf than any machine.

Traditional Craft Of Goldbeating

Understanding goldbeating

Goldbeating literally means beating the gold into submission. It’s an intensive job and physically demanding. It can take ten hours or more to create a sheet of gold leaf.

The first step in the process is to melt a piece of gold. At this stage, other metals can also be melted and added to the gold. For example, silver or copper. They have similar attributes to gold but their presence will adjust the colour slightly. This may be perfect for a specific job.

It should be noted, if the gold leaf is to become flecks for food and drink decoration then pure gold must be used, no other metals can be added. This is to ensure the gold leaf complies with food regulations.

The molten gold is then poured into moulds and left to cool. In effect, you’re creating gold ingots.

These ingots are then hit with a 15-lb hammer repeatedly. Professional goldbeater’s will hit the sheet up to 70 times a minute and keep this going for one hour! At this stage, the gold should be thin enough to cut into four smaller sheets.

Each of the individual sheets is hammered again, for up to three hours. The result is incredibly thin gold sheets, ready to be used to decorate almost anything.

In modern times, these ingots are then passed through a set of rollers. They compress the gold. It goes through several sets of rollers, each one reducing the thickness of the gold.

Once the gold is thin enough, it is beaten with a hammer. Again, modern technology allows this to be done with a mechanical hammer. This slowly thins the gold sheets further.

The final stage still needs to be completed by hand. It involves beating the thin sheet of gold with a hammer. This stage requires skill to ensure you obtain a perfect finish. The aim is a piece of gold leaf which is wafer-thin and as smooth as silk.

Qualifying as a goldbeater

Goldbeaters must train for three-and-a-half years before they are considered journeymen. It takes another three years of training to become a master.

This stage is important as it ensures the final gold leaf is of the highest possible standard, allowing it to look fantastic in any application while standing the test of time.

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