Kanazawa Gold Leaf
The history of Kanazawa Haku can be traced back to the latter half of the Sengoku period (1428-1573), when Maeda Toshiie, the feudal lord of the Kaga clan governing the southern part of the area now known as Ishikawa Prefecture, sent a document back to the country from a campaign in Korea, explaining how to produce gold leaf. The Shogunate subsequently set up a gilders' guild and controlled the production and sale of gold leaf throughout the country.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, however, Kanazawa Haku workers took the opportunity on the abolition of governmental control to successfully develop both the techniques and extent of production. Being of such a high quality, Kanazawa maintains its position as the number one center for the production of gold leaf in the country.
The leaf is very thin and in the case of gold leaf is between 0.0001 mm and 0.0002 mm thick. For this reason, it is possible to apply the leaf to materials however complicated the pattern might be. What is more, none of the brilliance of the raw gold is lost at all, and the beauty and splendor of the finished products never cease to captivate the heart of the beholder. It still has a wide range of craft applications in the fields of textiles, lacquer ware, ceramics and on various types of screens, often applied to paper. It is also used on signs and individual carved characters as well as on the mizuhiki decorations for gifts and on the best art mountings. Large amounts of gold leaf in particular are used on household Buddhist altars and on shrine and temple buildings, too.
An extremely thin gold leaf just one ten thousandth of 1 to 2 millimeters in thickness. The materials of all decorative patterns, no matter how intricate, are covered in gold whose beauty and elegance, losing none of its luster over time, never cease to move people’s hearts.
How to make
Gold leaf is made by adding small amounts of silver to gold, the main raw material, in order to create an alloy which is then pressed and extended by using a rolling mill to a thickness of just one hundredth of a millimeter. This alloy is then spread between two layers of a specially-prepared paper, “sumiuchi- shi,” and beaten to a thickness of one thousandth of a millimeter to create a substance called “uwazumi” which is in turn spread between two layers of “hakuuchi-shi” paper and beaten with a foiling machine to its final gold leaf thickness.