It was 24 karat.
A coffee shop that is about to open was doing some gold-leafing on their windows. I had walked by earlier in the afternoon and saw rough blotches of gold, making out the form of what seemed to be a large coffee cup and some letters. It wasn't precise, the squarish patches of gold were overlaid to give plenty of room for the final image. I was really curious about it and wanted to ask the woman what was going on, but I was kind of shy.
Later I came back that same way, and she had finished it, and was wiping it down. Now the excess gold was removed, so you had a gold coffee cup and the letters of the shop. They clearly weren't open for business yet of course, there were tarps and stuff all in there, but I sort of gestured to see whether I could come in. She and the other people working in there were very friendly, and explained how it worked. A mother and her young daughter came in as well, and were also admiring it.
Apparently you can wipe a surface with a gelatin mixture, and then just press gold leaf onto the surface, smoothing it out. Then you mark where you want the boundaries of the image, and paint inside it. The paint holds the gold leaf to the wall! Then you just wipe away the extra gold with water! So amazing. It's apparently a very old technique.
So there were little bits of gold all over the place. I can't call them flakes, because they weren't. They weren't hard and sharp and they had no weight to them whatsoever. The closest thing I can think of is that they were like the incredibly thin bits of ash that will waft up from a fire, that simply disappear when you touch them. Touching the gold was like that, it was so thin you couldn't even feel it, really, just see it sort of melt away between your fingers.
You could press it against your fingertip, which I did. It was so thin I could see my fingerprint through the gold leaf. I hear you can beat gold to one molecule thin. It was so beautiful and cool.
I asked if they were going to vacuum it up and save it or something; one packet of 25 gold leaf things, which were like 3.5 inches square maybe, cost 44 dollars, and there were at least 10 packets on the table, probably. He said he thought it was a lost cause, and indeed, the gold was just so ephemeral-seeming, what would you even do with it, it would disappear. So I figured it was okay to eat some of it. I wanted to consume gold and know what it tasted like!
I pressed some onto my finger and then licked it off. Of course, it was a very small amount, so I could barely taste anything, just that faintest tang of metal. You'd have to have more gold to get a really good taste.
From what I did taste, though, it did seem a lot purer and cleaner in its taste than, say, the taste of iron or nickel. That could be because gold just tastes better, or because maybe the iron and nickel I've tasted is impure. Like if I had to analogize the tastes, I would say that iron is like silty water or something, nickel is like mucky swamp, and the gold is like cold stream water.
It would be so awesome to get a ton of 24k gold and just play around with it. Supposedly it's quite malleable. Just take balls of it like clay and make stuff out of it like you were playing with play-doh. Take gold leaf and smear it all over your whole body, and be even cooler than Goldfinger. Eat it! Swim around in 24 karat gold leaf!
This is the kind of thing I would be so tempted to do if I was ridiculously rich. Obviously it would have to be truly ridiculous wealth, past the point where I've made sure basically everyone I know is financially secure and like bought entire islands to preserve them and set up charitable foundations and stuff. Other stuff I would like to do is get a lot of liquid nitrogen and play with that! I saw videos on youtube where people toss boiling water or hot coffee into the air, outdoors, in their like -40 degree weather, and it just turns into a snow mist and comes down in a gentle arc! That of it which doesn't just seem to vanish.