About Gilt Leather

One bit of kurdyban is:

  • 5

    Technological layers

  • 45

    Silver petals

  • 20

    Creation weeks

Beautiful, timeless and universal — these are the qualities of the gilt leather that we produce in Consiste workshop in Kraków. A masterpiece of artistic craftsmanship, a luxury good — what is that defines gilt leather?

Gilt leather is vegetable-tanned hide (predominantly of calfskin) covered with silver leaf, which is embossed and hand-painted using the technique of glaze painting. Imaginative patterns, noble texture and golden tint in the colours are such that the unique allure of gilt leather has enchanted and inspired people for many centuries. 

The production process of gilt leather comprises many time-consuming stages and requires enormous amount of precise manual labour making every developed piece of gilt leather an extremely precious and unique piece of work.

The technique of gilt leather processing originated in the Near East and dates back to the Middle Ages. Owing to the Moors, it reached Spain, wherefrom it spread to other European countries. Its other name of “cordovan” was derived from the Spanish city of Córdoba, the first in our continent to be famous for its gilt leather manufacturing. The peak of gilt leatherware production was reached in 17th and early 18th century.

Initially, pieces of gilt leather were relatively flat. They received ornamental decoration through stamp punching and embossing with the use of heated metal plates. In the 17th century Flandres, raised ornaments were introduced thanks to the application of special wooden moulds. The ornament started to grow in size to cover the entire area of the leather panels, while apart from geometrical patterns, floral motives, fruits, birds, animals and putti were imaged.

Gilt leather was mainly used to decorate interior of private dwellings, although it could also be found in churches. It was considered to be a more durable material than fabrics and wallpapers, which, together with its exceptional beauty, ensured its growing popularity.

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Our Offer

In our workshop work genuine artists. It is to their knowledge, talent and diligence to detail that our gilt leather owes its ultimate form. The traditional and most popular use for gilt leather is for wall decoration. Either displayed on large surfaces or framed like paintings it makes a lasting impression, both in historical and modern interiors.

We encourage our clients to experiment with the form, design and colours of gilt leather. Uncompromising regarding the quality, we are at the same time open to novel solutions and unorthodox inspirations. We use our professional skills and experience in order for the visions of our Clients to take an ideal, artistic form. Apart from developing individual projects, we offer our own designs inspired by history, and replicas of antique gilt leather works.

Using gilt leather we produce:

decorative elements of furniture
gallantry
decorating items
jewelery
wall coverings

Cooperation

Our gilt leather is manually prepared with individual aesthetic needs of a specific Client in mind. However, the historical production technology used to a certain extent conditions the working time and materials used.

Thanks to the complete control over every stage of production, we are able to treat each of our Clients individually. Should it happen that none of our patters meets your tastes, we can suggest choosing individual colours for an existing pattern, or designing a new one. It would then be our pleasure to assist in Designer’s creative works and produce the leather according to a received project, or as a replica of a historical artefact.

Placing an order is usually preceded by a consultation aimed at precisely defining the client's expectations. If you are interested in cooperation, please contact us by phone or via email (form available in the CONTACT tab)

Things worth noting

  • Dimensions of a single piece are limited to the size of ca. 50 x 60 cm
  • Leather is a natural material and reacts to changes in climate conditions. That is why we mount larger panels onto special stretcher bar frames, which ensure constant level of leather tension, in order to prevent wrinkling and cracking during shrinking and relaxation processes.
  • Newly developed gilt leather displays lively, evenly distributed colours. With use, the layers of paint wear off, giving the items the noble look of antique gilt leather. At the request of our Clients, we are able to modify the new panels to make them look antiquated, just like the old ones. It proves of special importance when supplementing larger set of items, e.g. chairs.
  • All necessary stages of the gilt leather production process make the lead time vary from 3 to 6 months (depending on the number of pieces orders and the colours used).

How do we do it?

The secret of our workshop’s success lies in application of the original 17th century technique of gilt leather production, which we mastered while performing conservation works on the gilt leather held in the collections of Wawel Royal Castle in Kraków. What makes our method unique?

  • We use only naturally tanned leather (free of contemporary industrial substances).
  • We use a layer of genuine silver leaf. Today, the popular option is to heat-emboss leather covering it with aluminium foil. At Consiste, we perform silver-plating as it was done centuries ago.
  • We produce our nobel varnish ourselves. Long hours spent reading through old recipes enabled us to prepare varnish giving the most exquisite golden glare effect.
  • We manually paint our leather, applying the technique of glaze painting with transparent oil paints.

Decorative elements of furniture

The possibility of using gilt leather in furniture design constantly incites our creativity. With our gilt leather we upholster chairs, armchairs, folding screens, headboards, wardrobe and drawer fronts.

Leatherware

Handbags, make-up cases, casings… in this instance ordinary items become works of applied art. We produce them using gilt leather and highest quality skins in cooperation with top pursemakers.

Item decoration

An item decorated with gilt leather becomes a true jewel. Coffers, cushions and mirrors are instances of items we surround ourselves with in our everyday life. Each of them may become a stylish element of the interior or a sophisticated present.

Jewellery

Jewellery made of (let’s say) silver and decorated with gilt leather is inimitable. It is worn by people of sophisticated taste, who seek unique details to complement their attire. A bracelet with gilt leather may also be regarded as an exclusive gift.

Wall upholstery

Wall decoration and upholstery are where gilt leather best displays its splendor and the richness of its design. Larger panels may adorn an entire wall or a fragment of it, while a single piece constitutes an unusual, arresting decoration.