■Kanazawa Gold and Silver Leaf
The gold leaf of Kanazawa is world-acclaimed, as well it should be: of all the goldleaf manufactured in Japan, ninety-eight percent comes from this region. The long history of gold leaf manufacturing is inextricably tied to the broader history of Kanazawa-Kaga region, once the wealthiest domain in all of feudal Japan.
People have been facinated by gold and silver ornamentation ever since the period of the ancient tombs, when gold leaf first appeared. Gold leaf was developed through Buddhist art in the Asuka and Tenpyo Eras (about the 7th and 8th centuries), and this lustrous material adorned the arts and crafts of the Heian Era (794-1192) and the masterpieces of the Muromachi Era (1338-1573), when gold leaf truly began to flourish.
Because of its cohesive property, gold can be beaten to extreme thinness-between 2 and 500 microns, using the original technique developed and practiced by generations of craftsmen. In this process, gold and a special Japanese paper called washi are stacked together in alternating layers.
Through intensive pounding, the gold expands and thins to a remarkable uniformity, thanks to the specially developed paper. The humid climate of Kanazawa helps clean the air of impurities as it also helps weigh down the very fine, lightweight gold leaf as it is being worked.
Today, gold and silver leaf produced in this way are widely used in many religious settings such as Buddhist altars, images and altar fittings, as well as for a variety of crafts and art objects, such as gold and silver thread, lacquer ware, inlaid works, pottery and ceramics.
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