Tool Time: Gold Leaf

One way to easily glam up lampwork beads is by adding precious metals, for example fine silver or genuine gold. With prices on a high right now, it does seem daunting to start using these expensive materials. But a little goes a very long way and considering the instant appeal it gives to beads, I think it’s well worth the expense.

I want to talk this time about gold leaf and how I’m adding it to the surface decoration of beads.

Gold leaf for lampworking is commonly sold in little booklets with 25 sheets in either 22 Karat or 23 Karat gold. I personally can’t really see a difference between 22K and 23K gold and it doesn’t seem to look or behave differently.

The current going rate for a 25 sheet booklet of gold is about $40 – $45 and you can get them with your usual lampworking supply vendors. Beware of imitation gold leaf that you can find in craft shops … they’re not real gold if it’s not written on it and will just burn to gray ash on your bead.

A word of caution: gold leaf is extremely lightweight and you need to be very careful when handling it. If there is just the slightest wind in the studio, or even if you’re breathing too closely to the gold leaf, it will fly around and you have to be fast to catch it again.

I found this to be the best way to prepare the material:

  • Fold a paper kitchen towel down a couple of times and wet it.
  • Place it right next to your torch on your working surface.
  • Open the little booklet and hold it in an angle very close to the wet papertowel
  • Use a non-serrated tweezer to carefully guide/nudge/push the leaf to slide from the booklet onto the damp papertowel.
  • I blow very softly on top of the gold leaf, so that it sticks to the wet paper towel. Now there’s no danger of it floating away with the lightest breeze.

To actually decorate the bead with the gold leaf is rather straight forward:

  • Prepare your bead as usual.
  • Once you’re ready to decorate, let the bead cool down a bit (no glow)
  • Roll the bead either over the gold leaf or push it lightly onto the gold leaf, depending on desired result.
  • Lightly marver the leaf onto the bead
  • Flash fast through the flame (make sure that you’re not reheating too much, else the gold leaf will burn off which is usually not pretty)
  • Place finished bead in your kiln

Here I show a different effect. This is a set that I made with Gaia silver glass and textured with a spiral shaped stamp.

After lightly pressing the bead onto the gold leaf I decided not to marver the gold. As a result, the gold leaf was burning off in the groves of the spiral stamp, thus enhancing the spiral effect even more.


2 responses to “Tool Time: Gold Leaf

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