The Precious Element of Gold

It takes a lot of time, thought, drawings and planning to bring a creative idea to life – not something that happens overnight. For many years, Edelweiss has been ‘reinventing the piano’ in ingenious ways, and one of the principal elements of our creative process is choosing the right materials for the design.

The Solis, a Goldfinch by Edelweiss masterpiece, is one of those spectacular creative ideas that took months to form the blueprint for. Encased in 23.5 carat distressed gold leaf, this design captures the glory of a Californian sunrise.

But what is gold leaf?

Gold leaf is produced by working a piece of gold in a hammering action over and over until it is so thin and fine, that it is too fragile to handle directly and is at risk of tearing. It is ‘goldbeaten’ until its thickness – or thinness, more accurately – is that of 1 millionth of a metre, known as a micrometre or a micron, which is the equivalent of 0.0001 mm!

The first use of goldbeating is said have started in the Egyptian times, over 5,000 years ago, where the pliable function of gold was realised. Then in China in the 3rd century AD came the establishment of the handcraft of ‘gold leafing’, which has stood the test of time and remains extremely popular today. The process of making gold leaf has not changed much over time.

Gold is melted down and poured into a bar mould. When the bar has cooled, it is fed through a dual roller machine over and over, each time having the space between the rollers adjusted and reduced until the gold is at a suitable thickness for hammering. It then goes through three rounds (and many hours) of beating to become gold leaf.

The rolled sheet of gold is cut up into small squares and placed into a template of square frames which is enveloped in a material that can withstand the beating. The worker continuously hits this all over and on both sides on a solid surface with a hammer until the pieces of gold have spread out to fill the frames. This process is repeated in another template of frames after the gold sheets are cut into smaller pieces. In the final beating, the gold is once again cut into smaller pieces, inserted into a third template, and hammered to attain the thinness required. This final template must be lined with a non-stick medium, so the very thin pieces of gold leaf do not stick to the mould. The squares of gold leaf are enclosed in a protective cover, ready for use.

Gold leaf has been used in architecture, gourmet food and décor. Pure gold leaf may be fragile to use but it is such a strong element that it will not tarnish over time. Distressed, antique or aged gold leaf is achieved by manipulating the gold leaf on application, by twisting it so that crumples and gives a crackled effect, which can also be attained after application by interrupting the perfect finish with a hand tool, such as a cocktail stick.

The gold leaf application on The Solis is a very intricate and time-consuming artwork, applied by hand in our Cambridge workshop, by our very skilled and valued artisans – the professionals that make those original ideas become real.

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