The art of gilding is of ancient origin. It was lavishly employed in Egypt, Greece and Rome and during the Renaissance.

The process involves applying a thin layer of real or imitation gold to a surface. It is employed on wood, metal, ivory, leather, paper and glass, and it is mainly used to embellish the decorative elements of domes and vaults of buildings. Gold, or a substitute like bronze, copper or silver, may be applied in leaf form (loose or transferred) to a surface treated with oil or water-based size. Mouldings, cornices, architraves and skirting boards can be picked up with gold leaf, highlighting its prominent areas. The applied leaf is burnished or left matte.