Medieval Cafe

Hammering gold

Hammering gold

Gold is so malleable that just 1 gram can be hammered into a sheet 1 square meter in size. More than 40% of all of the gold mined around the world has come from the Witwatersrand Basin mine in South Africa. The best estimates currently available suggest that around 190 000 tonnes of gold have been mined throughout history. That’s 190 million kg or enough to fill over 3 olympic swimming pools.

Making Japanese gold leaf

Making Japanese Gold Leaf

Making gold leaf is the signature handicraft of Kanazawa. Pieces of a specially prepared gold alloy are passed through rollers that press them to a thickness of about 0.01 millimeters. The sheets of gold foil are placed between pieces of paper and stacked, and the stack is pounded to spread them and make them even thinner. The sheets are meticulously transferred to another stack of paper and pounded again. This process is repeated thousands of times, until the sheets have been thinned to 0.001 mm. Further pounding reduces the thickness to 0.0001, at which point the sheets are finally ready to be used as gold leaf. This material is so light that it is blown away by the smallest breath of air. Skilled workers handle it with a set of traditional bamboo implements. The final step is to cut it into squares of various sizes and mount it on sheets of mat board. From start to finish the process relies on the work of artisans specializing in particular tasks.

(Originally published in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Kanazawa Cable Television.)

You can watch the video here:

Japanese gold leaf

800 Medieval Manuscripts from the British Library

800 Medieval Manuscripts

800 new medieval manuscripts are now available for you to explore online from the British Library, in association with Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The illustration is “Annunciation to the Shepherds, twelfth century psalter – BL, MS Cotton Caligula A. vii/l, f.6v”


Metropolitan Museum of Art NY – Free art book downloads

Free downloadable art books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art NY

Five decades of art publications are now available to read online or download. Titles include:

Afghanistan: Forging Civilisations along the Silk Road; The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry;  The Emperors’ Album: Images of Mughal India; Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi

What are you waiting for!

Indian gold wedding dress

Isha Ambani’s wedding dress

Isha Ambani is the daughter of India’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani. Her father’s wealth is valued at about $50 billion. They turned their business Reliance Industries into the world’s largest producer of polyester fibres and yarns. This company now exports one fifth of India’s products, including petroleum and mobile phones.

Her hand embroidered wedding dress used panels of gold, crystals and sequins. She was married on 12 December 2018. You can see a video of how her dress was made by clicking here. Aishwarya Rai and her husband Abhishek Bachchan danced at one of the wedding ceremonies.

Medieval women created manuscripts too

Medieval women created manuscripts too

Scientists have discovered small traces of blue lapis lazuli in the teeth of a female skeleton from a medieval grave in a German monastery. “The team studying the skeleton concluded that the woman, who was aged between 45 and 60, must have been a painter who frequently licked the end of the brush whilst painting.” “The woman was thought to be part of a group of about 14 women living at the monastery who were likely to have been wealthy, upper class, and educated.

Huge gold discovery in Western Australia

Huge gold discovery in Western Australia

There has been a huge gold discovery in outback Western Australia. Some of the pieces found have been valued at almost $4 000 000. Usually miners discover gold dust, not gigantic nuggets. The discovery was made at Beta Hunt mine near the small town of Kambalda, 630 kilometres east of Perth.

Green Gold

CSIRO Green Gold

Australia has produced its first green gold. Cyanide is not used in the process, even though it is used in 90% of gold produced in the world. Cyanide-based infrastructure usually costs about $30 million, but this new technology costs only about $2.5 million.


3.4 tonnes on a runway in Siberia

3.4 tonnes of gold bars

Not a common sight. In March 2018, a Russian plane took off from eastern Siberia with the back door not secured, even though it was carrying a special load of 9.3 tonnes of gold bars. They fell out onto the runway after takeoff and 174 bars were recovered – that’s 3.4 tonnes of gold bars.