Gilding and Finishing the icons
The icons start to come to life as the color begins to add dimension. The icons are, (left photo, left to right) Sts. Christina, Eleutharios, George, Demetrios, Philip, Kosmas, Damianos, and Stephen. On the right photo, (l to r), on the lower photo, (l to r) are Sts. Katherine, Constantine & Helen, Barbara, John the Baptist, Paraskevi, Kyriaki and Anna with Mary.
As shading and color continue to be added, the icon begins to take on a life-like appearance. Including items such as a book, a staff, a sword and shield, or a cross in the hands of the Saints is traditional in Byzantine iconography. The items uniquely symbolize the biblical characterizations of each of the subjects of the icon.
Adding background to the icons
Perhaps one of the most intriguing steps in iconography is the application of the gold background on the icon. This is accomplished by pasting gold leaf foil onto the icon.
The gold leaf foil is made on 3.4 inch by 3.4-inch squares of 22 carat, very thin layer, real gold, as shown below. About 300 gold leaf squares are pasted onto each icon, then rolled to smooth the gold leaf. Each square costs about $2-$3 and is only available from Germany (shown below), Japan or Italy.
While the process of applying the gold foil is difficult and expensive, the result of the gold leaf background is remarkably beautiful. The gold leaf, shown in a single square, is so thin that is easily punctured, torn or wrinkled. It must be handled with care and applied patiently. Note the tear in the upper right corner.
Surrounding this icon of St. Nectarios is the gold leaf foil squares before being rolled smoothly into the icon. St. Nectarios is the modern-day Saint, having served his ministry in the early 20th century. He is known as the Saint of Medicine, and is commonly revered as the "Cancer Saint" for curing the sick. His icon has been given as a gift for healing to many hospital patients.
Once the gold leaf is placed, it is rolled and coated with a clear, lacquer finish. Iconographer George is shown rolling clear finish over the gold foil background.
The result is very impressive.... Note the treatment of the gold foil around the heads of the Saints to produce a halo effect. A compass is used to draw an outline, then the gold foil is carefully polished in a circular fashion to produce this stunning result.