INTRODUCTION: Gold, that most precious of metals, is valued highly all over the world but nowhere so much, perhaps, as in Thailand - where apart from its normal commercial uses it is an important part of worship in the Buddhist faith.
INTRODUCTION: Gold, that most precious of metals, is valued highly all over the world but nowhere so much, perhaps, as in Thailand - where apart from its normal commercial uses it is an important part of worship in the Buddhist faith. The leaf is produced locally by workers using age-old skills-for the gold leaf production business in Thailand, at least, modern technology may as well not exist.
SYNOPSIS: The methods used are as old as the Buddhist religion itself. Using 11 pound (5 Kg) hammers, these two men in a typical factory are pounding thousands of thin bits of gold sheet placed between pieces of paper bound into a rigid book. One man does the initial thinning, checking every five minutes to gauge his progress spending about one and a half hours on each pack.
The first pack is divided into twice the number of gold sheets and the second man does the final work. This requires more delicate hammering with more strokes, and he'll take seven hours to do one pack. For this work the men get between GBP1.15 Sterling and GBP1.45 Sterling (US 2.00 - US 2.50) a day.
The gold leaf starts out as 19 grams of thin sheet. Each pack holds a thousand sheets divided into two thousand in the second stage of hammering, until finally, a tiny piece of gold transformed into a sheet of gossamer-thin leaf is ready for sale at about four pence each (US 6.25 Cents)
Gold is a commodity to be bought, sold, exchanged and used as security against the future. But once it's bought and used for religious worship, it is never reclaimed. A large amount of gold is consumed for this purpose each year and people are apparently happy to spend their money on it for religious uses only.
Covering images of worship in gold leaf is regarded as the highest expression of their faith, bur where the image is inaccessible, poles round the shrine are covered instead.