Here at Associated Crafts & Willet Hauser we are artisans of a number of different processes and techniques. Working with faceted glass, fusing, etched glass, sculptured gold – we are masters of a wide range of crafts. This time on the blog we wanted to take a look at one of those that, as a medium, shows up alongside stained-glass windows and ornate carvings across the globe – gold leaf sculpture, and the way we implement it!

Gold Leaf Sculpture, Gilding and Other Uses

Gold leaf is gold that has been hammered into incredibly thin sheets, a small nugget can make a sheet as large as 5 sq. ft! This thin gold sheet can then be used in art, architecture, even food. Wild right? So, ignoring the culinary uses, how is this gold leaf used to create pieces of art.


Gilding, or gold leafing, is the process by which a craftsman applies gold leaf to the surface of an object. There are a few ways that this can be done, including mechanical and chemical gilding, and various sub-types like cold, fire, wet, and depletion gilding. Each uses a different process that adheres the gold leaf material to the surface of the object being gilded. Mechanical gilding and overlaying is a process that goes back to at least 2600 BCE, with mentions in the Old Testament and the Odyssey! Here’s the basics:


  1. Gold is hammered into the thin gold leaf. In modern days the sheets are thinner than paper!
  2. The surface of the wood or canvas is then coated in gesso, a kind of adhesive made of chalk and glue.
  3. The gold leaf is applied with a special brush called a gilder’s tip.
  4. The gold is then burnished to a shine.


This isn’t the only method of course, sometimes the gold is used as a pigment in a paint, amongst others. While gilding is traditionally done with sculptures (and we will get back to that in a moment) it is also used in architecture.

Gold Leaf in Architecture

Gold leaf has a long history in architecture, dating back to the early Roman and Byzantine churches. Aside from being an incredibly beautiful covering, the gold is a protective coating protecting the surface. It has usually been used on buildings to denote importance, such as the Palace of Versailles, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, and many more.

Sculptured Gold Leaf from Associated Crafts & Willet Hauser

Associated Crafts & Willet Hauser bring that resplendent, exquisite style to bear in projects today. Combing gold leaf’s use in sculpture and architecture, we have created something wonderful! Using a method developed in the 50s by Henry Lee Willet, we are able to create what we call ‘Sculptured Gold Windows.’ Building on top of a traditional leaded stained glass window, the artisans here overlay it using a low relief sculpture (also known as bas-relief) made of a lead sheet. The lead and sculptures are then covered in 23 karat gold leaf to bring the sculptures to life. This process makes for a spectacular window whether day or night! 

Stained glass usually loses some of its brilliance in the night when there is no light shining through the different colored glasses. With gold leaf sculptured windows, the glass will still appear dark at night, but the gold portion will be illuminated by the lights inside. This makes for a unique appearance day and night.

Whether you’re needing your stained-glass windows restored or looking to create an all new beautiful pieces with sculptured gold, Associated Crafts & Willet Hauser are here to help you with the project. Find out more through our Project Guide, get a free window inspection, or a no-obligation, free appraisal.With these completed you can know exactly what your windows need restored, or the cost in creating a new masterpiece. Whatever the job, Associated Crafts & Willet Hauser have the talent to make it happen.