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24 karat gold is used to make gold leaf. The karat and color of leaf varies depending the amount of silver or copper added. Most gold beaters make 23 karat leaf. The gold and its alloy are put in a crucible and melted in a furnace. The liquid gold is poured into a mold to cast it into a bar eight inches long, one and a quarter inches wide, and three-eighths of an inch thick. The bar of gold is put through a rolling mill repeatedly, the rollers are adjusted each time to make the gold thinner and thinner. The eight-inch bar of gold is rolled to 1/1000 of an inch thick and is now about fifty-six feet long.
The gold is then repeatdly hammered between two pieces of cow hide until it is approx 1/300,000 of an inch thick. It is then cut into pieces approx 3″square and interleaved between tissue paper into books of 25 sheets.
Gold leaf has traditionally been most popular and most common in its use as gilding material for decoration of art (including statues) or the picture frames that are often used to hold or decorate paintings, mixed media, small objects (including jewelry) and paper art.
In some cultures gold leaf is considered non-toxic when labeled as food-grade and so can be used to decorate food or drink. Such a leaf is called Vark. They can be often found on a number of desserts including chocolates and mithai.
In Asian countries, gold in particular is sometimes used in fruit jelly snacks. It was also used in coffee, In Kanazawa, where Japanese gold leaf production is centred, gold leaf shops and workshops sell green tea and hard candy with gold leaf within.
A recent trend in the US has seen the inclusion of floating bits of gold leaf in liquors such as Goldschläger. However, in Continental Europe liquors with such bits of gold leaf are known since the late 16th century. A well-known example is Danziger Goldwasser, originally from Gdañsk, Poland, which has been produced since at least 1598.
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