Gold Leaf DIY Lamp Shades

I have long thought that being a gilder would be a fine way to make a living. It even sounds elegant, doesn’t it? But before I join the Society of Gilders, I want to try this ancient technique with faux gilt.

I can only imagine to what heights one’s anxiety would rise if using real gold sheets even with the gold hammered to a thickness of 1/300,000 of an inch. The composition gold sheets I used are 85% copper and 15% zinc. The sheets are as light as air. I picked up the first sheet with the fan on and the window open. Still, it worked, even if it did have one wrinkly spot. The directions are simple and come with the Mona Lisa Gold Leaf Kit I purchased. When gilding anything porous, one should first seal the surface, in my case cardstock, with a modern sealer for paper. When that is dry, paint the surface to be gilded with the adhesive, wait 30 minutes, close the window, try to float the gold leaf somewhere in the direction of what you are gilding, gently rub with a soft cloth and then apply the sealer in the kit with a brush. What brush you use makes a difference. A stiff brush gives the gilt a burnished finish while a super-soft brush, I used a make-up brush, results in a traditional gilt finish. Well, kind of.


One of my first-time experiments involved a pair of 1930s lampshades which were still with the lamps, but the silk had long since deteriorated. I used yellow cardstock and traced the shape of the lampshade frame, cut it out and followed the directions. It was very easy. The hard part was gluing the woven brass metal trim to the shade. I don’t like the shades with these pretty lamps and I think originally they must have had long bead trim to cover the sockets. They would be much prettier in silk. I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

I am pleased with the second part of the experiment and look forward to next spring when I can use the rest of the kit on selective parts of the exterior door surround. I gilded the finial on the top.  It looks nice.

Are you wondering how things went outside with these sheets that are lighter than air? I had to go up a  ladder to reach the finial.

I applied the adhesive, waited ½ the recommended time thinking it would dry quicker outside and when I got to the top of the ladder, the wind kicked up a flurry of swirling leaves and the four or five inch square of gilt stuck to the newly dried oil paint further down. You can’t get that stuff off newly applied oil paint. It is still there. I came up with a new idea though. I carefully slid the next sheet of gilt on to the top of a potholder, layered one of the dusted sheets protecting it from its neighbor on top and then put another pot holder on top of that. It was a little more difficult climbing the ladder while holding the potholders with both hands. I’m pretty sure this isn’t how members of the Gilder’s Society do it.

Gilding is a technique that takes years to master, but it can certainly be done in the DIY arena.  To see how four other DIY gilders did, check out my friends at:   Viva La Vintage For Your Home

M. Jones Style

Confetti Style

and Loving Home


30 thoughts on “Gold Leaf DIY Lamp Shades

  1. Pingback: HANDCRAFTED HOME – BLOG HOP | VivaLaVintage - For Your Home

  2. Wow Ginene!! You really did fantastic! I love how you created the lampshades – they really give the lamps a more elegant appeal (mind you I love love love the lucite base). But, you’re truly a brave soldier to have climbed that ladder to do the finial.. your persistence is remarkable. It’s the small details that always seem to make a difference, probably no one will notice but every time you look up at your shop – you’ll smile and say “I did that!” Kudos to you my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jamala. The lamps are pretty and people think they are lucite because that was first used in the 1930s, but they are actually glass. You are sure right about the details. I’ve picked flowers from my garden every weekend to bring color into the shop and two people, thinking they were silk, turned the vases over and were surprised to have water spill out! Thank you for putting this blog hop together. It was fun!

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  3. I am in awe of the projects you tackle! This one truly has to be the most unique and I can’t imagine the average DIYer attempting it. I would have to have you sitting next to me holding my hand. Your artwork (and it is) reflects a level of quality far beyond most. Just beautiful. The entrance to your shop is exquisite!

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  4. I don’t think I would EVER have the patience to tackle something like that, although my local Panoply sister would (and would probably be very good at it). The finial looks terrific, but the technique sounds like an acrobatic performance!

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  5. Such an adventuresome and creative spirit you are, Ginene! Reading this post reminded me of my days as a professional calligrapher, gilding illuminated letters. We used to rub a thick, soft watercolor brush in our hair for a few seconds (to create static) then use it to lift the sheet of gold leaf and place it on the letter—which had been raised with gesso and burnished with an agate burnisher to remove all little pit holes and imperfections. For a flat letter, we simply painted on a special gold sizing. Once the surface was prepared, we would breathe on it through a bamboo breathing tube to warm and soften it, then using that soft brush to lift some gold leaf onto a small velvet pillow, ( like your potholder?) plunk the gold leaf where we wanted it. After waiting to make sure all was dry and adhered, we would wipe away the excess particles of gold leaf, revealing a beautiful gold letter, polish again with an agate burnisher, and buff with a small velvet cloth. We always saved all those brushed-away particles for other uses, given how expensive the sheets of gold leaf were.
    Your dealing with the wind reminds me of how the weather was often a factor, i.e. humid days were not conducive to success. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about gilding the lamp….and didn’t it turn out beautifully!
    I’d call it no-guilt gilt….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cynthia! You were (are) a real gilder! That is considered a lost art now. I have a sign in my shop with letters gilded on a mirror from a department store. I am quite interested in this art and have read about it in books. Wow.


  6. Ginene, I applaud your first time efforts!!! So pretty!!! I am light years behind you in DIYing, I’m afraid. I am about to try milk paint for the first time. I know, where have I been??? LOL I got a free dining table off Craigslist so that is what inspired me to finally take the leap and I only hope my first time using it turns out as pretty as your lamps!!! Great post-thanks for sharing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In awe of your talent, Ginene! I have seen DIY shows with gilded projects, so I can just imagine how difficult it was. The lampshades are beautiful! I am sure those will sell pretty fast thanks to your talent!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kdo neví co je nuda a práce ho baví, je šťastný člověk.
    Na takové lidi je radost se dívat a na výsledek jejich práce také. Velice hezké a milé zátiší s lampou, chtěla bych ho malovat, tak moc se mně líbí. Dobrý večer, s potěšením, že jsem vás poznala. Anna

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Wow, Ginene. I tried my hand at working with faux gilt leaf years ago. It wasn’t easy. So fragile to work with! I think the gilt accent on the finial looks marvelous. You had me in stitches imaging you climbing a ladder with potholders on your hands. What the neighbors must have thought! :D

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Ginene I couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment on your most recent post but I wanted to say thank you.Your words were and are such a comfort. Franz has rallied a bit and we have taken advantage of this special time.

    Have a wonderful week!


    • Laura, I know, I don’t like the way one has to sign in to WordPress and Google to leave a comment, but that is the way they have it set up. I wish you strength with dear little Franz. You will always have the knowledge that you improved his life and brought him happiness, love and comfort. What else can be more important in a rough world for many of its inhabitants. You are good people and I am glad I was lucky enough to meet you via the Internet. ~Ginene


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