Gold leaf is obtained through alchemy: its production requires exceptional craftsmanship, sophisticated technologies, and an in-depth knowledge of the secrets of an ancient craft, which is constantly evolving.
High quality gold leaf is obtained through a long and complex process: at least ten hours of processing are required to gradually reduce the thickness of gold, silver and other precious metals.
It all starts with pure gold, which is melted along with other noble metals (such as copper and silver) at a temperature of over 1000°C. Once liquefied and amalgamated, the various components form an alloy, which is poured into the moulds and left to cool. This is how the ingots are obtained, whose colouration varies depending on the quantities of the individual noble metals utilised. The alloys’ proportions are often dictated by ancient recipes, which are carefully guarded by each manufacturer.
The ingots are then “blanked” by passing them through the cylinders, which transform them into strips a few tenths of a millimetre thick. This is followed by an additional rolling phase, which reduces the metal’s tension by subjecting it to heating and cooling cycles. During this phase the strips become so thin that they can only be measured in microns.
This is the point at which the most delicate and characteristic phase of the process begins: the beating. The gold strip is cut into small stamp-like squares, and is inserted between sheets of paper, after which it is subjected to numerous beating cycles using mechanical hammers, which spread it over the surface of the paper, thinning it even further.
Now only a few tenths of a micron thick, the gold leaf is ready for the final step, during which the strength and skill of the gold beater come into play. In fact, the finishing phase is still carried out entirely by hand: synchronising the striking movements with their breathing, and using different types of hammers of different shapes and weights, the gold beater flattens the surface of the sheets until they’re impalpable and smooth as silk.
Finally, the gold leaf is placed on a cushion, cut by hand using a double-bladed knife called a “carretto”, and is inserted into the traditional paper booklets.