Applying gold leaf to silver

I just unearthed a package of gold leaf I bought from someone leaving
metalsmithing. She practically gave it to me so I couldn’t resist.
I have read all the recent info on kumboo so I understand what to do
if it is gold foil but can I use gold leaf the same way? Or does it
have to be soldered on? Or can I just fuse it to sterling without a
burnisher, using just a careful flame? Or do I need to fuse it to
fine silver? Any help or ideas about how to use this material would
be great. Thanks!

dakotah designs

Shael, Do the gold leaf the same as foil. It has a tendency to fuse a
little too well, and you may find it “disappearing”. Some just use
several thicknesses. You still have to burnish. Unless you’re glueing
it on with tragacanth, you may find an open flame blows the foil away
too readily. Use a hot plate and a thick piece of metal to transfer
the heat to your silver for fusing your leaf. I prefer this method
over torch myself. You need either fine silver or a depletion gilded
surface. Heating sterling and brass brushing about 5
times will do the trick. K.P. in WY

Shael, you’ll try it anyway, so did I, but it doesn’t work because
the leaf is just too thin. You can use the same process, but you
will get only a very faint color change. More layers will help, but
you will still have only a faint gold color. Nothing like what
you’re after. Use the leaf for something else (enameling?) and buy some kumboo foil. -
Dana Carlson


Your gold leaf won’t work for Kumboo. It’s too thin. Gold leaf is
used in book binding, in illuminated lettering, covering various items
with gold, etc. It’s used litterally by glueing it on, however, not
by metallically fusing it. The techniques are not hard to learn, but
look it up first. It’s not a matter of smearing ordinary glue onto
something and covering with leaf…

With Kumboo, you’re heating the gold (which needs to be more a foil
thickness, than the extremely thin leaf) enough so that diffusion
bonding takes place when you burnish the leaf. No actual fusing.
It’s fairly low temp. but even so, it’s hot enough that metal ions
and oxygen, etc, are moving through and into the gold as part of the
process. and you do need the pressure of burnishing. Leaf is too
fragile to work well, as it tears too easily when you try to burnish.
And it’s so thin that some silver will quickly migrate through it,
making the color go quite pale in a surprisingly short time, if not
immediately. Try it if you like, but you may find it difficult, or
unpredictable, or almost impossible to work with for Kumbo. It’ll
blow away from the torch, it’ll stick to your burnisher instead, It’ll
tear when you try to apply or burnish it, and even if you get it to
work, the results likely will be less than satisfactory, unless you
modify your expectations to include whatever you end up getting (an
exploration process that’s quite valid in the art of making jewelry,
but somewhat less useful if trying to achieve a specific desired

Another common use for gold leaf, by the way, is imbedding it in hot
glass. When the glass is stretched (like in blowing the bubble out in
glass blowing, for example), the leaf fractures into miriads of tiny
pieces. Looks great. Mixes nicely with dichroic glasses, is you’re
doing any of that sort of work.

Be aware, also, that not all gold leaf is gold leaf. Much of what is
sold is “imitation”, being actually just a bronze or some similar gold
color alloy, used instead. If it actually says, “pure gold”, or 23 K
gold, or the like, then it is. If it says nothing, check more
closely. also, most real gold leaf is sold in fairly small sizes,
like about 2 inch square pieces. If it’s one of the large 4 inch
square “books”, it’s much more likely to be the imitation. So too, if
it’s the type of leaf where the leaf is actually on a carrier sheet
by which you can pick up and handle and apply the leaf, rather than as
fragile loose featherlight leaves just placed between the pages of the

Hope this helps.
Peter Rowe

Thanks to all of you who gave me feedback on how to/how not to use
the gold leaf I have. It was interesting to hear the different
opinions but the bottom line is that I think I will send most of it on
to a friend who is a calligrapher and book binder. I think she will
get much more use out of it than I will (rats!) I am going to play
with it a little to see if I can get any color change using multiple
layers of it with gum tragacanth as an initial binder as Kathy
Palochak suggested. I will report back but in the interim, I continue
to be so grateful to all of you out there with so much more experience
than I have and who are so generous with your help.


Shael Barger
dakotah designs

Hi Shael: Gold leaf is thinner than the gold that is usually used for
kumboo. You can try to use several layers. It may not have the same
effect as the usual gold rolled for kumboo. It may burn down quickly.
Good luck

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