The production of gold leaf – the gold beater and his craft
The production of gold leaf is a craft that looks back at 5,000 years of history and tradition. Gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium are the raw materials that we, as gold beaters, process in our workshop.
This is how the Eytzinger gold leaf factory transforms solid gold into wafer-thin gold leaf
The precious metals are weighed and fused in the melting furnace at 1200°C. The liquid gold is poured into an ingot mould. The cooled ingot is then processed into a gold ribbon. The finished gold ribbon reaches a “thickness” of 0.015 mm. To give you a more concrete idea, the thickness of hair is between 0.03 mm and 0.085 mm.
First beating process
The gold ribbon is cut into squares and one by one placed between sheets of glassine by an automated machine. 1.300 such squares are inserted, centred, between glassine papers and result in a so-called shodder. The shodder is “wrapped” in crossed strips of special paper to hold the individual sheets together. Then the first automatic beating process begins, using a so-called spring hammer. The squares inside the shodder are beaten until they have “grown” from a size of 40 x 40 mm to 180 x 180 mm.
Cutting shodder gold
The finished shodder is cut again into 9 identical squares, measuring 50 x 50 mm, using guillotine shears. These stacks consist of 1,300 gold leaves, each separated by a glassine paper.
Filling the mould
In the next step, the gold leaves from the shodder are filled into the so-called gold beater’s mould. This operation is automated and allows the gold leaf to be filled in accurately and centrally. The mould consists of approx. 1400 specially coated foils in a 14 x 14 cm format, which can withstand the subsequent beating process without damage.
Second beating process
The filled mould is wrapped in crossed strips of special paper to prevent the foils and gold leaves from slipping. The beating process under the spring hammer then begins. The quarters expand between the foils of the mould, to a sheet size of approx. 13 x 13 cm. To prevent the wafer-thin metal foils from sticking to the foils, the beating process must be slow, with frequent breaks. Once the gold leaf has reached its final size and is sufficiently thin, the finished product is sent to the gold cutting shop for further processing.
The cutter uses ebony pliers to place a wafer-thin gold leaf from the gold beater’s mould onto a cutting cushion. These cushions are made especially for the cutters and are similar to gilding cushions. The gold leaf is then cut into a square shape using a special double-edged knife. Now, using the pliers again, the cut gold leaf is placed into a booklet made of silk paper.
Tanning – the secret lies in the brew
After cutting, the emptied mould is taken to the tanning studio for “cleaning”. In this department each leaf is carefully cleaned of gold residues and dusted with a fine powder, the gold beater’s brew. This brew is food safe and serves as a separating agent between the gold leaf and the foil. Thanks to this powder, the gold can easily expand on the foil.