Gilding was created by the Egyptians. In Old Kingdom Egypt, gold was hammered onto furniture in eighth-inch sheets. Later because of its value, gold was hammered between layers of ox gut until it was about 1/100,000 of an inch thick. It was sold in bundles of 500 sheets, as it still is today.
The wood was primed with gesso, a warm mix of rabbit skin glue, precipitated chalk and white pigment. Next, a coat of fine clay was applied and smoothed. Finally, the gold was laid down with a size of rabbit glue and then burnished with an agate until resembling solid gold.
This was the method developed by the Italians and imported to France where it was practiced as an art form in the 18th century. This exacting method is called water gilding and is one of our specialties.