Alternatives to Real Silver Leaf

In this case, faking it would cost more and be harder than using the real thing. April 24, 2014

We have received a sample from a customer which is labeled "antique silver leaf." The customer wants to achieve this look, without the expense of actually using leaf. We have tried a few samples using metallic paints, but nothing has been close enough. Does anyone have experience with this type of finish? The piece of furniture in question is a four post bed, with some detailed turnings.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor L:
By the time you get the look for this, you could have just used the silver and saved them the money. I have people tell me all the time, use a cheap wood and make it look like cherry. By the time you're done with all the faux finishing, it's going to cost them more than if they just used the cherry. Or just use imitation silver leaf. I believe it is aluminum.

From contributor D:
At AWFS some of the WB manufacturers had a metallic patina that may do what you are looking for, but without a sample it is hard to tell. Do you have a picture of what you are trying to do? I agree with the above poster that the imitation may cost more than the real deal.

From the original questioner:
There is a reeded detail on the bed that I can't imagine using leaf on - it would be a nightmare. Contributor D, do you remember who any of the manufacturers were?

From contributor M:
I do not know your experience level. It is certainly possible to do. Imitating either gold or silver leafing is quite the process. It will be far most costly then using the real thing.

It's a painting technique. Gesso must be applied first and it must be applied in ways that shows squares and patterns of squares. Then a colorant must be added, either acrylic or oil artist paints, and again it has to be applied thickly to show the relief effect of the real leaf.

After the paint is applied it must be sealed. I would probably use shellac. Then I would either use a dark wax or a dark glaze to give it an antique look. Then it would have to be coated. I would probably charge three times as much as silver leaf.

From contributor D:
No, I don't off the top of my head. I believe one was from Italy.

From contributor R:
I believe what you are looking for is either HOK Kosmic Krome or Alsa Corps Mirrachrome. Both are great products and available in different colors. Sprayed over a gloss black. I believe they will do what you want, but they ain't cheap!

From contributor M:
Mohawk sells silver leaf that is from Italy. They also sell the sizing. If you're going to leaf it, you'll also need to seal it and then apply either a dark glaze or a dark wax and that has to be topcoated. And if you're going to do the leafing, you'll need a really good sable or squirrel hair brush. But the most important thing is to have no air moving when you're applying the leaf to the sizing.

From the original questioner:
At 1500.00 a gallon, it's gonna do something...

From contributor O:
Can you post a photo of what you're trying to achieve? If I read you correctly, you would rather not leaf it, yet you're getting responses on how to leaf it and where to buy leaf and what brushes to use, etc. Information like that is obviously the opposite of what you're asking about , yet it's not totally useless; it's really up to the customer to decide the cost of option A vs. option B. The Mirrachrome itself is expensive. So is shipping. But used correctly it might give you the effect your customer is after.

From contributor D:
You can buy 100 sheets of faux silver leaf on Amazon for under 10 dollars. Is there a reason that won't work?

From contributor M:
Wow, under $10.00 - I wonder what it is, maybe aluminum foil? As far as it working goes, I suppose that depends on you. How do you propose to get that antiqued look?

From the original questioner:
Yes, that stuff is an alloy. We picked up some at a local hobby store to try out. We'll see what happens. The real stuff isn't terribly expensive, about 50 sqft for $35.00. Is there a huge difference between the two?

From contributor M:
Yes, there is a huge difference. Most notably in the thickness, which really matters when you apply it. Also in the overall appearance.

For what I believe you are after, there are no easy and less expensive ways that I know of to produce an antiqued silver leaf look.

From contributor T:

Just as there are a bazillion colors of red and an equal number of greens and blues, so are there an equal number of "antique silver leaf" samples floating around the Universe. Unless you have an actual and physical sample in your hands, there is no way to say what it is or what it looks like or if it's real or if it's an imitation silver. Anything beyond that is pure speculation.