Can Gold Leaf Be Melted Down?

By Egon Schiele
Gold leaf can make an object look ornate.

Gold leaf is gold that is beaten into very thin sheets, then typically applied to the surface of an object to make it look like it is made out of gold. You can melt down gold leaf, however, because it is extremely thin, you would need to melt down a lot of it to come up with any significant quantity of purified gold.

Gold Properties

Gold is a chemical element identified by the symbol Au, which comes from the Latin word for shining dawn--aurum. It is an extremely dense and malleable metal, meaning that it is easy to work with. It is generally resistant to corrosion and is a good conductor of electricity.

Gold Leaf

Gold leaf is produced in extremely thin sheets, typically in 22 karat yellow gold. This type of gold is approximately 91 percent pure, with other metals added to increase its durability. It is so thin that it can stick to fingers and easily blow away. Since gold is expensive, this thinness is necessity to make gold leaf a practical application for decorative use.

Gold Leaf Uses

Artisans use gold leaf for a variety of decorative applications. One of its most common uses is as a gilding material for art, such as statues. It can also make furniture more ornate. Perhaps its most common use is for gilding picture frames, since it provides a luxurious surface that accents fine artwork. Sometimes, it's even used as a garnish for food, since it is edible and non-toxic when labeled as food-grade gold leaf.

Melting Gold Leaf

You can melt gold leaf using traditional assay techniques that burn off lesser metal and leave only pure gold. However, because it is so thin, you would have to gather a lot of gold leaf to come up with an appreciable amount of gold. For example, you can hammer a gold nugget with a diameter of 5mm into gold leaf of nearly half a square meter.

Melted Gold Leaf Uses

Refined gold leaf can be transformed into bullion bars that nations purchase for use in coin production. Other uses include a variety of industrial applications, jewelry and other objects of personal and household adornment.

About the Author

Egon Schiele is an art connoisseur who has been writing professionally for more than a decade. He works as a practicing attorney, and enjoys writing on many different topics for online publications such as eHow, Trails, and various contributions to blogs as well as print publications aimed at collectors of antiques.