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Gilded Pig

Gilded Pig

CooperToons was going to use this image to relate the story of Moses and the Golden Pig - but then remembered it wasn't a pig at all.

So it's only appropriate to point out that although this image may be gilded it is not, strictly speaking, gold. The statue - in this case a plaster model - was coated with a "size" (ergo, glue) and a metal leaf - imitation gold - was added. Then when the surface was covered with the leaf it was sealed with a special lacquer.

Save by the expert, imitation gold leaf - at times called "Dutch gold leaf" - is difficult to distinguish from the real thing. It is mostly an alloy of copper and zinc, making it strictly speaking, a brass. However, to keep a high malleability so it can be pounded into the thin, flexible sheets, the amount of zinc is less than 20 % - compared to about 30 % for a normal brass. There are other metal leafs such as silver, aluminium, and copper.

Even when sealed, metal leaf is rather delicate, and that's why when you see gilded statues in museums they are usually restored or don't have much gold leaf remaining. Regarding popularity, gilding is considered rather gaudy, even if it's real gold. But it has one virtue that it is relatively cheap and you don't need a foundry to make a metal (covered) statue.