This passage is from a book I bought in an antique store in Marietta, Ohio, called FOUND. The proprietor of the store is an old college friend of mine, Chuck Swaney. I hadn't seen or talked to Chuck in more than thirty years but we located each other on Facebook and realized we lived just fifty or so miles apart. In visiting with each other, it seemed the years had fallen away, but we were, of course, talking to each other over that great distance as much as our memories were rekindled.
I don't know what metaphor the intricate description of the malleability of gold serves. When I came across it I thought maybe it stood in for art, or life, or maybe the passage of time, or the past itself. Maybe no metaphor at all. A vehicle with no tenor. Simply an apt expression of malleability.
I like the way it ends, though, with the gold leaf being placed between the pages of "little books"—as leaves, in fact, often are.