Water-gilding is an integral part of icon-writing. A skill unto itself, gilding takes a great deal of practice and patience to master. Gold leaf is extremely fragile and cannot be handled by hand. In fact, each leaf is only 0.1 micron thick. A stack of one thousand sheets of gold leaf is about the same thickness as a typical piece of printer paper.

The first image shows some of the basic tools used to handle and work with gold leaf:

  1. The orange book of gold leaf open and showing a leaf;

  2. Gilder's cushion where a leaf has been transferred using a special gilder's knife (long blade);

  3. Gilder's brush, or tip, used to transfer the gold leaf (in hand); and

  4. Burnisher (behind hand) used to bring the gold leaf to a high shine once applied.

 Basic gilding tools used in the transfer and application of gold leaf.

Basic gilding tools used in the transfer and application of gold leaf.

  Different shapes of burnishing tools, which are typically made of agate mounted on a handle.

Different shapes of burnishing tools, which are typically made of agate mounted on a handle.

  The gilder at work, burnishing the gold leaf with an agate tool. 

The gilder at work, burnishing the gold leaf with an agate tool.