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To begin, a beautiful description of gold by an exceptional signwriter, Ash Bishop of Brilliant Sign Co., based in Buckinghamshire, England:
The symbiotic relationship between gold and the sun is as old as time. The chemical symbol for gold is ‘Au’ from the Latin word aurum, meaning shining dawn. And from Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn.
The lower angle of the sun plays on gold leaf and produces a symphony of dazzling reflections. Sun rays hitting gold is a nod to the origin of all gold’s creation. Formed by a supernova or a collision of Neutron stars dispersing the element throughout the universe and beyond.
What is gold leaf
Gold leaf is a broad term describing incredibly thin layers of hammered precious metals.
Metals were beaten by hand for thousands of years. The goldbeater possessed exceptional hand/eye coordination and with precise control, the precious metal was flattened into shape.
Today, gold is mostly flattened by machine, ensuring consistent quality. Human touch is still required to convert the leaf into a thing of beauty. This process is called gilding.
Gilding creates all kinds of masterpieces for fine art, furniture, specialist decorating, and much more.
Types of metal leaf
Precious metal leaf used for gilding ranges from 6ct white gold to 24ct pure gold.
An extensive range of variegated leaf is also available. Variegated leaf is a metal that has been heated or chemically treated or a combination of both. These treatments result in a multi-coloured, patterned effect shimmering through the metal leaf.
Generally, gold leaf is manufactured into pages around 100mm by 100mm. The pages are bound into small books. Each book covers approximately one quarter of a square metre.
How gold leaf signs are created
Applying gold leaf from the page to the surface can be accomplished in two ways. Each method requires an adhesive called size.
Transfer leaf is pressed pages of gold, attached to tissue paper. The gold size is painted onto the surface where the gold leaf will be applied. Each page of transfer leaf is removed from the book and pressed against the size. Once secure, the excess transfer leaf is removed.
Loose gold is held freely between the pages of tissue paper. Each loose leaf of gold is carefully removed from the book without the tissue paper backing. Loose leaf is picked up and applied to the surface where the size has been applied. Again, excess gold is removed once the gold leaf has set.
Each method is used for different specifications and finishes. Both can be combined on glass.
Reverse glass gilding
The art of glass gilding has been used in signmaking since the mid-nineteenth century.
Working in reverse, gold leaf is applied to glass before being sealed onto the surface. The gold shines through the glass and is often combined with hand lettering. Effects and embellishments are added for more intricate signs, opening a range of dazzling opportunities.
Gilding on glass typically involves more labour than gilding on panels. This type of sign work is regarded as a craft, with unparalleled eye appeal.
Advantages of hand lettered gold leaf signs
Light reflects the lustre of real gold and can be used to enhance typically standard signs. Even when added in small amounts.
Hand lettering with real gold makes signs distinctive and radiant. Each is unique, with a premium characteristic. These properties shine through generic signage, alluring passers-by. Investing in gold leaf signage sets a business apart.
Durability of gold leaf signs
Gold is resistant to corrosion and is extremely durable. The purer the gold, the higher its integrity.
For long-lasting exterior signs, gold leaf of the highest standard is selected. This ensures protection from weather conditions over decades. Heavier weights of gold are preferred for such projects.
Interior projects can be gilded using lighter gold leaf with lesser value. In manufacture, metal leaf is paired with other alloys which will make it more durable against general wear and tear, in addition to cleaning.
Some gold leaf signs require a protective topcoat. This is especially important when gold leaf is used on vehicles.
In conclusion, gold leaf signs have been used for centuries because of their eye appeal and durability. Consider how gold can level up your signs.
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