This process involves extremely thin sheets of gold applied to a prepared surface. First, layers of gesso ground 9chalk and size) are used to fill all imperfections in the wooden frame. After smoothing, bole – a pigmented clay and size solution is applied in many layers. This helps prepare the gesso surface. The final layers are hand rubbed to create as smooth as a surface as possible for the leaf to be applied.
Next, the surface is wetted in small areas by ‘gilders water’, a water- size-alcohol solution which activates the adhesive qualities of the bole. Gold, white gold, silver, even palladium or platinum in extremely thin sheets are dropped onto the wetted surface; capillary action as well as water soaking into the clay draws the leaf down. The leaf can be burnished to a brilliant, polished appearance when dry, or can be distressed to reveal the bole underneath. It can also be toned to adjust the colour.