Actual real gold is NOTHING like anything else. All the practice in the world with one of the fakes or even sterling silver will not help when you first start with real gold leaf.
A couple of notes:
1) Close the windows. Wear a mask. Keep the air as still as it is possible to be. Once the leaf folds in on itself, there is a vanishingly small chance of getting it to unfold- and even less chance that it will unfold without tearing.
2) Make sure there is no oil or moisture on ANYTHING AT ALL.
3) Don’t touch it with your hands.
4) Let it dry completely.
5) Accept the fact that you are going to waste some gold. There’s no help for it- you are.
At that, it seems to actually be easier to work in some ways than the heavier metals… we’ll see later this week if that’s an illusion.