QUESTIONS as to the methods of smelting ores and of obtaining metals I discussed in Book IX. Following this, I should explain in what manner the precious metals are parted from the base metals, or on the other hand the base metals from the precious. Frequently two metals, occasionally more than two, are melted out of one ore, because in nature generally there is some amount of gold in silver and in copper, and some silver in gold, copper, lead, and iron; likewise some copper in gold, silver, lead, and iron, and some lead in silver; and lastly, some iron in copper. But I will begin with gold.
Gold is parted from silver, or likewise the latter from the former, whether it be mixed by nature or by art, by means of aqua valens, and by powders which consist of almost the same things as this aqua. In order to preserve the sequence, I will first speak of the ingredients of which this aqua is made, then of the method of making it, then of the manner in which gold is parted from silver or silver from gold. Almost all these ingredients contain vitriol or alum, which, by themselves, but much more when joined with saltpetre, are powerful to part silver from gold. As to the other things that are added to them, they cannot individually by their own strength and nature separate those metals, but joined they are very powerful. Since there are many combinations, I will set out a few. In the first, the use of which is common and general, there is one libra of vitriol and as much salt, added to a third of a libra of spring water. The second contains two librae of vitriol, one of saltpetre, and as much spring or river water by weight as will pass away whilst the vitriol is being reduced to powder by the fire. The third consists. of four librae of vitriol, two and a half librae of saltpetre, half a libra of alum, and one and a half librae of spring water. The fourth consists of two librae of vitriol, as many librae of saltpetre, one quarter of a libra of alum, and three-quarters of a libra of spring water. The fifth is composed of one libra of saltpetre, three librae of alum, half a libra of brick dust, and three-quarters of a libra of spring water. The sixth consists of four librae of vitriol, three librae of saltpetre, one of alum, one libra likewise of stones which when thrown into a fierce furnace are easily liquefied by fire of the third order, and one and a half librae of spring water. The seventh is made of two librae of vitriol, one and a half librae of saltpetre, half a libra of alum, and one libra of stones which when thrown into a glowing furnace are easily liquefied by fire of the third order, and five-sixths of a libra of spring water. The eighth is made of two librae of vitriol, the same number of librae of saltpetre, one and a half librae of alum, one libra of the lees of the aqua which parts gold from silver; and to each separate libra a sixth of urine is poured over it. The ninth contains two librae of powder of baked bricks, one libra of vitriol, likewise one libra of saltpetre, a handful of salt, and three-quarters of a libra of spring water. Only the tenth lacks vitriol and alum, but it contains three librae of saltpetre, two librae of stones which when thrown into a hot furnace are easily liquefied by fire of the third order, half a libra each of verdigris, of stibium, of iron scales and filings, and of asbestos, and one and one-sixth librae of spring water.
All the vitriol from which the aqua is usually made is first reduced to powder in the following way. It is thrown into an earthen crucible lined on the inside with litharge, and heated until it melts; then it is stirred with a copper wire, and after it has cooled it is pounded to powder. In the same manner saltpetre melted by the fire is pounded to powder when it has cooled. Some indeed place alum upon an iron plate, roast it, and make it into powder.
Although all these aquae cleanse gold concentrates or dust from impurities, yet there are certain compositions which possess singular power. The first of these consists of one libra of verdigris and three-quarters of a libra of vitriol. For each libra there is poured over it one-sixth of a libra of spring or river water, as to which, since this pertains to all these compounds, it is sufficient to have mentioned once for all. The second composition is made from one libra of each of the following, artificial orpiment, vitriol, lime, alum, ash which the dyers of wool use, one quarter of a libra of verdigris, and one and a half unciae of stibium. The third consists of three librae of vitriol, one of saltpetre, half a libra of asbestos, and half a libra of baked bricks. The fourth consists of one libra of saltpetre, one libra of alum, and half a libra of sal-ammoniac.
The furnace in which aqua valens is made is built of bricks, rectangular, two feet long and wide, and as many feet high and a half besides. It is covered with iron plates supported with iron rods; these plates are smeared on the top with lute, and they have in the centre a round hole, large enough to hold the earthen vessel in which the glass ampulla is placed, and on each side of the centre hole are two small round air-holes. The lower part of the furnace, in order to hold the burning charcoal, has iron plates at the height of a palm, likewise supported by iron rods. In the middle of the front there is the mouth, made for the purpose of putting the fire into the furnace; this mouth is half a foot high and wide, and rounded at the top, and under it is the draught opening. Into the earthen vessel set over the hole is placed clean sand a digit deep, and in it the glass ampulla is set as deeply as it is smeared with lute. The lower quarter is smeared eight or ten times with nearly liquid lute, each time to the thickness of a blade, and each time it is dried again, until it has become as thick as the thumb; this kind of lute is well beaten with an iron rod, and is thoroughly mixed with hair or cotton thread, or with wool and salt, that it should not crackle. The many things of which the compounds are made must not fill the ampulla completely, lest when boiling they rise into the operculum. The operculum is likewise made of glass, and is closely joined to the ampulla with linen, cemented with wheat flour and white of egg moistened with water, and then lute free from salt is spread over that part of it. In a similar way the spout of the operculum is joined by linen covered with lute to another glass ampulla which receives the distilled aqua. A kind of thin iron nail or small wooden peg, a little thicker than a needle, is fixed in this joint, in order that when air seems necessary to the artificer distilling by this process he can pull it out; this is necessary when too much of the vapour has been driven into the upper part. The four air-holes which, as I have said, are on the top of the furnace beside the large hole on which the ampulla is placed, are likewise covered with lute.
All this preparation having been accomplished in order, and the ingredients placed in the ampulla, they are gradually heated over burning charcoal until they begin to exhale vapour and the ampulla is seen to trickle with moisture. But when this, on account of the rising of the vapour, turns red, and the aqua distils through the spout of the operculum, then one must work with the utmost care, lest the drops should fall at a quicker rate than. one for every five movements of the clock or the striking of its bell, and not slower than one for every ten; for if it falls faster the glasses will be broken, and if it drops more slowly the work begun cannot be completed within the definite time, that is within the space of twenty-four hours. To prevent the first accident, part of the coals are extracted by means of an iron implement similar to pincers; and in order to prevent the second happening, small dry pieces of oak are placed upon the coals, and the substances in the ampulla are heated with a sharper fire, and the air-holes on the furnace are re-opened if need arise. As soon as the drops are being distilled, the glass ampulla which receives them is covered with a piece of linen moistened with water, in order that the powerful vapour which arises may be repelled. When the ingredients have been heated and the ampulla in which they were placed is whitened with moisture, it is heated by a fiercer fire until all the drops have been distilled. After the furnace has cooled, the aqua is filtered and poured into a small glass ampulla, and into the same is put half a drachma of silver, which when dissolved makes the turbid aqua clear. This is poured into the ampulla containing all the rest of the aqua, and as soon as the lees have sunk to the bottom the aqua is poured off, removed, and reserved for use.
Gold is parted from silver by the following method. The alloy, with lead added to it, is first heated in a cupel until all the lead is exhaled, and eight ounces of the alloy contain only five drachmae of copper or at most six, for if there is more copper in it, the silver separated from the gold soon unites with it again. Such molten silver containing gold is formed into granules, being stirred by means of a rod split at the lower end, or else is poured into an iron mould, and when cooled is made into thin leaves. As the process of making granules from argentiferous gold demands greater care and diligence than making them from any other metals, I will now explain the method briefly. The alloy is first placed in a crucible, which is then covered with a lid and placed in another earthen crucible containing a few ashes. Then they are placed in the furnace, and after they are surrounded by charcoal, the fire is blown by the blast of a bellows, and lest the charcoal fall away it is surrounded by stones or bricks. Soon afterward charcoal is thrown over the upper crucible and covered with live coals; these again are covered with charcoal, so that the crucible is surrounded and covered on all sides with it. It is necessary to heat the crucibles with charcoal for the space of half an hour or a little longer, and to provide that there is no deficiency of charcoal, lest the alloy become chilled; after this the air is blown in through the nozzle of the bellows, that the gold may begin to melt. Soon afterward it is turned round, and a test is quickly taken to see whether it be melted, and if it is melted, fluxes are thrown into it; it is advisable to cover up the crucible again closely that the contents may not be exhaled. The contents are heated together for as long as it would take to walk fifteen paces, and then the crucible is seized with tongs and the gold is emptied into an oblong vessel containing very cold water, by pouring it slowly from a height so that the granules will not be too big; in proportion as they are lighter, more fine and more irregular, the better they are, therefore the water is frequently stirred with a rod split into four parts from the lower end to the middle.
The leaves are cut into small pieces, and they or the silver granules are put into a glass ampulla, and the aqua is poured over them to a height of a digit above the silver. The ampulla is covered with a bladder or with waxed linen, lest the contents exhale. Then it is heated until the silver is dissolved, the indication of which is the bubbling of the aqua. The gold remains in the bottom, of a blackish colour, and the silver mixed with the aqua floats above. Some pour the latter into a copper bowl and pour into it cold water, which immediately congeals the silver; this they take out and dry, having poured off the aqua". They heat the dried silver in an earthenware crucible until it melts, and when it is melted they pour it into an iron mould.
The gold which remains in the ampulla they wash with warm water, filter, dry, and heat in a crucible with a little chrysocolla which is called borax, and when it is melted they likewise pour it into an iron mould.
Some workers, into an ampulla which contains gold and silver and the aqua which separates them, pour two or three times as much of this aqua valens warmed, and into the same ampulla or into a dish into which all is poured, throw fine leaves of black lead and copper; by this means the gold adheres to the lead and the silver to the copper, and separately the lead from the gold, and separately the copper from the silver, are parted in a cupel. But no method is approved by us which loses the aqua used to part gold from silver, for it might be used again.
A glass ampulla, which bulges up inside at the bottom like a cone, is covered on the lower part of the outside with lute in the way explained above, and into it is put silver bullion weighing three and a half Roman librae. The aqua which parts the one from the other is poured into it, and the ampulla is placed in sand contained in an earthen vessel, or in a box, that it may be warmed with a gentle fire. Lest the aqua should be exhaled, the top of the ampulla is plastered on all sides with lute, and it is covered with a glass operculum, under whose spout is placed another ampulla which receives the distilled drops; this receiver is likewise arranged in a box containing sand. When the contents are heated it reddens, but when the redness no longer appears to increase, it is taken out of the vessel or box and shaken; by this motion the aqua becomes heated again and grows red; if this is done two or three times before other aqua is added to it, the operation is sooner concluded, and much less aqua is consumed. When the first charge has all been distilled, as much silver as at first is again put into the ampulla, for if too much were put in at once, the gold would be parted from it with difficulty. Then the second aqua is poured in, but it is warmed in order that it and the ampulla may be of equal temperature, so that the latter may not be cracked by the cold; also if a cold wind blows on it, it is apt to crack. Then the third aqua is poured in, and also if circumstances require it, the fourth, that is to say more aqua and again more is poured in until the gold assumes the colour of burned brick. The artificer keeps in hand two aquae, one of which is stronger than the other; the stronger is used at first, then the less strong, then at the last again the stronger. When the gold becomes of a reddish yellow colour, spring water is poured in and heated until it boils. The gold is washed four times and then heated in the crucible until it melts. The water with which it was washed is put back, for there is a little silver in it; for this reason it is poured into an ampulla and heated, and the drops first distilled are received by one ampulla, while those which come later, that is to say when the operculum begins to get red, fall into another. This latter aqua is useful for testing the gold, the former for washing it; the former may also be poured over the ingredients from which the aqua valens is made.
The aqua that was first distilled, which contains the silver, is poured into an ampulla wide at the base, the top of which is also smeared with lute and covered by an operculum, and is then boiled as before in order that it may be separated from the silver. If there be so much aqua that (when boiled) it rises into the operculum, there is put into the ampulla one lozenge or two; these are made of soap, cut into small pieces and mixed together with powdered argol, and then heated in a pot over a gentle fire; or else the contents are stirred with a hazel twig split at the bottom, and in both cases the aqua effervesces, and soon after again settles. When the powerful vapour appears, the aqua gives off a kind of oil, and the operculum becomes red. But, lest the vapours should escape from the ampulla and the operculum in that part where their mouths communicate, they are entirely sealed all round. The aqua is boiled continually over a fiercer fire, and enough charcoal must be put into the furnace so that the live coals touch the vessel. The ampulla is taken out as soon as all the aqua has been distilled, and the silver, which is dried by the heat of the fire, alone remains in it; the silver is shaken out and put in an earthenware crucible, and heated until it melts. The molten glass is extracted with an iron rod curved at the lower end, and the silver is made into cakes. The glass extracted from the crucible is ground to powder, and to this are added litharge, argol, glass-galls, and saltpetre, and they are melted in an earthen crucible. The button that settles is transferred to the cupel and re-melted.
If the silver was not sufficiently dried by the heat of the fire, that which is contained in the upper part of the ampulla will appear black; this when melted will be consumed. When the lute, which was smeared round the lower part of the ampulla, has been removed, it is placed in the crucible and is re-melted, until at last there is no more appearance of black.
If to the first aqua the other which contains silver is to be added, it must be poured in before the powerful vapours appear, and the aqua gives off the oily substance, and the operculum becomes red; for he who pours in the aqua after the vapour appears causes a loss, because the aqua generally spurts out and the glass breaks. If the ampulla breaks when the gold is being parted from the silver or the silver from the aqua, the aqua will be absorbed by the sand or the lute or the bricks, whereupon, without any delay, the red hot coals should be taken out of the furnace and the fire extinguished. The sand and bricks after being crushed should be thrown into a copper vessel, warm water should be poured over them, and they should be put aside for the space of twelve hours; afterward the water should be strained through a canvas, and the canvas, since it contains silver, should be dried by the heat of the sun or the fire, and then placed in an earthen crucible and heated until the silver melts, this being poured out into an iron mould. The strained water should be poured into an ampulla and separated from the silver, of which it contains a minute portion; the sand should be mixed with litharge, glass-galls, argol, saltpetre, and salt, and heated in an earthen crucible. The button which settles at the bottom should be transferred to a cupel, and should be re-melted, in order that the lead may be separated from the silver. The lute, with lead added, should be heated in an earthen crucible, then re-melted in a cupel.
We also separate silver from gold by the same method when we assay them. For this purpose the alloy is first rubbed against a touchstone, in order to learn what proportion of silver there is in it; then as much silver as is necessary is added to the argentiferous gold, in a bes of which there must be less than a semi-uncia or a semi-uncia and a sicilicus of copper. After lead has been added, it is melted in a cupel until the lead and the copper have exhaled, then the alloy of gold with silver is flattened out, and little tubes are made of the leaves; these are put into a glass ampulla, and strong aqua is poured over them two or three times. The tubes after this are absolutely pure, with the exception of only a quarter of a siliqua, which is silver; for only this much silver remains in eight unciae of gold.
As great expense is incurred in parting the metals by the methods that I have explained, as night vigils are necessary when aqua valens is made, and as generally much labour and great pains have to be expended on this matter, other methods for parting have been invented by clever men, which are less costly, less laborious, and in which there is less loss if through carelessness an error is made. There are three methods, the first performed with sulphur, the second with antimony, the third by means of some compound which consists of these or other ingredients.
In the first method, the silver containing some gold is melted in a crucible and made into granules. For every libra of granules, there is taken a sixth of a libra and a sicilicus of sulphur (not exposed to the fire); this, when crushed, is sprinkled over the moistened granules, and then they are put into a new earthen pot of the capacity of four sextarii, or into several of them if there is an abundance of granules. The pot, having been filled, is covered with an earthen lid and smeared over, and placed within a circle of fire set one and a half feet distant from the pot on all sides, in order that the sulphur added to the silver should not be distilled when melted. The pot is opened, the black-coloured granules are taken out, and afterward thirty-three librae of these granules are placed in an earthen crucible, if it has such capacity. For every libra of silver granules, weighed before they were sprinkled with sulphur, there is weighed out also a sixth of a libra and a sicilicus of copper, if each libra consists either of three-quarters of a libra of silver and a quarter of a libra of copper, or of three-quarters of a libra and a semi-uncia of silver and a sixth' of a libra and a semi-uncia of copper. If, however, the silver contains five-sixths of a libra of silver and a sixth of a libra of copper, or five-sixths of a libra and a semi-uncia of silver and an uncia and a half of copper, then there are weighed out a quarter of a libra of copper granules. If a libra contains eleven-twelfths of a libra of silver and one uncia of copper, or eleven-twelfths and a semi-uncia of silver and a semi-uncia of copper, then are weighed out a quarter of a libra and a semi-uncia and a sicilicus of copper granules. Lastly, if there is only pure silver, then as much as a third of a libra and a semi-uncia of copper granules are added. Half of these copper granules are added soon afterward to the black-coloured silver granules. The crucible should be tightly covered and smeared over with lute, and placed in a furnace, into which the air is drawn through the draught-holes. As soon as the silver is melted, the crucible is opened, and there is placed in it a heaped ladleful more of granulated copper, and also a heaped ladleful of a powder which consists of equal parts of litharge, of granulated lead, of salt, and of glass-galls; then the crucible is again covered with the lid. When the copper granules are melted, more are put in, together with the powder, until all have been put in.
A little of the regulus is taken from the crucible, but not from the gold lump which has settled at the bottom, and a drachma of it is put into each of the cupels, which contain an uncia of molten lead; there should be many of these cupels. In this way half a drachma of silver is made. As soon as the lead and copper have been separated from the silver, a third of it is thrown into a glass ampulla, and aqua valens is poured over it. By this method is shown whether the sulphur has parted all the gold from the silver, or not. If one wishes to know the size of the gold lump which has settled at the bottom of the crucible, an iron rod moistened with water is covered with chalk, and when the rod is dry it is pushed down straight into the crucible, and the rod remains bright to the height of the gold lump; the remaining part of the rod is coloured black by the regulus, which adheres to the rod if it is not quickly removed.
If when the rod has been extracted the gold is observed to be satisfactorily parted from the silver, the regulus is poured out, the gold button is taken out of the crucible, and in some clean place the regulus is chipped off from it, although it usually flies apart. The lump itself is reduced to granules, and for every libra of this gold they weigh out a quarter of a libra each of crushed sulphur and of granular copper, and all are placed together in an earthen crucible, not into a pot. When they are melted, in order that the gold may more quickly settle at the bottom, the powder which I have mentioned is added.
Although minute particles of gold appear to scintillate in the regulus of copper and silver, yet if all that are in a libra do not weigh as much as a single sesterce, then the sulphur has satisfactorily parted the gold from the silver; but if it should weigh a sesterce or more, then the regulus is thrown back again into the earthen crucible, and it is not advantageous to add sulphur, but only a little copper and powder, by which method a gold lump is again made to settle at the bottom; and this one is added to the other button which is not rich in gold.
When gold is parted from sixty-six librae of silver, the silver, copper, and sulphur regulus weighs one hundred and thirty-two librae. To separate the copper from the silver we require five hundred librae of lead, more or less, with which the regulus is melted in the second furnace. In this manner litharge and hearth-lead are made, which are re-smelted in the first furnace. The cakes that are made from these are placed in the third furnace, so that the lead may be separated from the copper and used again, for it contains very little silver. The crucibles and their covers are crushed, washed, and the sediment is melted together with litharge and hearth-lead.
Those who wish to separate all the silver from the gold by this method leave one part of gold to three of silver, and then reduce the alloy to granules. Then they place it in an ampulla, and by pouring aqua valens over it, part the gold from the silver, which process I explained in Book VII.
If sulphur from the lye with which sal artificiosus is made, is strong enough to float an egg thrown into it, and is boiled until it no longer emits fumes, and melts when placed upon glowing coals, then, if such sulphur is thrown into the melted silver, it parts the gold from it.
Silver is also parted from gold by means of stibium. If in a bes of gold there are seven, or six, or five double sextulae of silver, then three parts of stibium are added to one part of gold; but in order that the stibium should not consume the gold, it is melted with copper in a red hot earthern crucible. If the gold contains some portion of copper, then to eight unciae of stibium a sicilicus of copper is added; and if it contains no copper, then half an uncia, because copper must be added to stibium in order to part gold from silver. The gold is first placed in a red hot earthen crucible, and when melted it swells, and a little stibium is added to it lest it run over; in a short space of time, when this has melted, it likewise again swells, and when this occurs it is advisable to put in all the remainder of the stibium, and to cover the crucible with a lid, and then to heat the mixture for the time required to walk thirty-five paces. Then it is at once poured out into an iron pot, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, which was first heated and smeared over with tallow or wax, and set on an iron or wooden block. It is shaken violently, and by this agitation the gold lump settles to the bottom, and when the pot has cooled it is tapped loose, and is again melted four times in the same way. But each time a less weight of stibium is added to the gold, until finally only twice as much stibium is added as there is gold, or a little more; then the gold lump is melted in a cupel. The stibium is melted again three or four times in an earthen crucible, and each time a gold lump settles, so that there are three or four gold lumps, and these are all melted together in a cupel.
To two librae and a half of such stibium are added two librae of argol and one libra of glass-galls, and they are melted in an earthen crucible, where a lump likewise settles at the bottom; this lump is melted in the cupel. Finally, the stibium with a little lead added, is melted in the cupel, in which, after all the rest has been consumed by the fire, the silver alone remains. If the stibium is not first melted in an earthen crucible with argol and glass-galls, before it is melted in the cupel, part of the silver is consumed, and is absorbed by the ash and powder of which the cupel is made.
The crucible in which the gold and silver alloy are melted with stibium, and also the cupel, are placed in a furnace, which is usually of the kind in which the air is drawn in through holes; or else they are placed in a goldsmith's forge.
Just as aqua valens poured over silver, from which the sulphur has parted the gold, shows us whether all has been separated or whether particles of gold remain in the silver; so do certain ingredients, if placed in the pot or crucible " alternately " with the gold, from which the silver has been parted by stibium, and heated, show us whether all have been separated or not.
We use cements when, without stibium, we part silver or copper or both so ingeniously and admirably from gold. There are various cements. Some consist of half a libra of brick dust, a quarter of a libra of salt, an uncia of saltpetre, half an uncia of sal-ammoniac, and half an uncia of rock salt. The bricks or tiles from which the dust is made must be composed of fatty clays, free from sand, grit, and small stones, and must be moderately burnt and very old.
Another cement is made of a bes of brick dust, a third of rock salt, an uncia of saltpetre, and half an uncia of refined salt. Another cement is made of a bes of brick dust, a quarter of refined salt, one and a half unciae of saltpetre, an uncia of sal-ammoniac, and half an uncia of rock salt. Another has one libra of brick dust, and half a libra of rock salt, to which some add a sixth of a libra and a sicilicus of vitriol. Another is made of half a libra of brick dust, a third of a libra of rock salt, an uncia and a half of vitriol, and one uncia of saltpetre. Another consists of a bes of brick dust, a third of refined salt, a sixth of white vitriol, half an uncia of verdigris, and likewise half an uncia of saltpetre. Another is made of one and a third librae of brick dust, a bes of rock salt, a sixth of a libra and half an uncia of sal-ammoniac, a sixth and half an uncia of vitriol, and a sixth of saltpetre. Another contains a libra of brick dust, a third of refined salt, and one and a half unciae of vitriol.
Those ingredients above are peculiar to each cement, but what follows is common to all. Each of the ingredients is first separately crushed to powder; the bricks are placed on a hard rock or marble, and crushed with an iron implement; the other things are crushed in a mortar with a pestle; each is separately passed through a sieve. Then they are all mixed together, and are moistened with vinegar in which a little sal-ammoniac has been dissolved, if the cement does not contain any. But some workers, however, prefer to moisten the gold granules or gold-leaf instead.
The cement should be placed, alternately with the gold, in new and clean pots in which no water has ever been poured. In the bottom the cement is levelled with an iron implement, and afterward the gold granules or leaves are placed one against the other, so that they may touch it on all sides; then, again, a handful of the cement, or more if the pots are large, is thrown in and levelled with an iron implement; the granules and leaves are laid over this in the same manner, and this is repeated until the pot is filled. Then it is covered with a lid, and the place where they join is smeared over with artificial lute, and when this is dry the pots are placed in the furnace.
The furnace has three chambers, the lowest of which is a foot high; into this lowest chamber the air penetrates through an opening, and into it the ashes fall from the burnt wood, which is supported by iron rods, arranged to form a grating. The middle chamber is two feet high, and the wood is pushed in through its mouth. The wood ought to be oak, holmoak, or turkey-oak, for from these the slow and lasting fire is made which is necessary for this operation. The upper chamber is open at the top so that the pots, for which it has the depth, may be put into it; the floor of this chamber consists of iron rods, so strong that they may bear the weight of the pots and the heat of the fire; they are sufficiently far apart that the fire may penetrate well and may heat the pots. The pots are narrow at the bottom, so that the fire entering into the space between them may heat them; at the top the pots are wide, so that they may touch and hold back the heat of the fire. The upper part of the furnace is closed in with bricks not very thick, or with tiles and lute, and two or three air-holes are left, through which the fumes and flames may escape.
The gold granules or leaves and the cement, alternately placed in the pots, are heated by a gentle fire, gradually increasing for twenty-four hours, if the furnace was heated for two hours before the full pots were stood in it, and if this was not done, then for twenty-six hours. The fire should be increased in such a manner that the pieces of gold and the cement, in which is the potency to separate the silver and copper from the gold, may not melt, for in this case the labour and cost will be spent in vain; therefore, it is ample to have the fire hot enough that the pots always remain red. After so many hours all the burning wood should be drawn out of the furnace. - Then the refractory bricks or tiles are removed from the top of the furnace, and the glowing pots are taken out with the tongs. The lids are removed, and if there is time it is well to allow the gold to cool by itself, for then there is less loss; but if time cannot be spared for that operation, the pieces of gold are immediately placed separately into a wooden or bronze vessel of water and gradually quenched, lest the cement which absorbs the silver should exhale it. The pieces of gold, and the cement adhering to them, when cooled or quenched, are rolled with a little mallet so as to crush the lumps and free the gold from the cement. Then they are sifted by a fine sieve, which is placed over a bronze vessel; in this manner the cement containing the silver or the copper or both, falls from the sieve into the bronze vessel, and the gold granules or leaves remain on it. The gold is placed in a vessel and again rolled with the little mallet, so that it may be cleansed from the cement which absorbs silver and copper.
The particles of cement, which have dropped through the holes of the sieve into the bronze vessel, are washed in a bowl, over a wooden tub, being shaken about with the hands, so that the minute particles of gold which have fallen through the sieve may be separated. These are again washed in a little vessel, with warm water, and scrubbed with a piece of wood or a twig broom, that the moistened cement may be detached. Afterward all the gold is again washed with warm water, and collected with a bristle brush, and should be washed in a copper full of holes, under which is placed a little vessel. Then it is necessary to put the gold on an iron plate, under which is a vessel, and to wash it with warm water. Finally, it is placed in a bowl, and, when dry, the granules or leaves are rubbed against a touchstone at the same time as a touch-needle, and considered carefully as to whether they be pure or alloyed. If they are not pure enough, the granules or the leaves, together with the cement which attracts silver and copper, are arranged alternately in layers in the same manner, and again heated; this is done as often as is necessary, but the last time it is heated as many hours as are required to cleanse the gold.
Some people add another cement to the granules or leaves. This cement lacks the ingredients of metalliferous origin, such as verdigris and vitriol, for if these are in the cement, the gold usually takes up a little of the base metal; or if it does not do this, it is stained by them. For this reason some very rightly never make use of cements containing these things, because brick dust and salt alone, especially rock salt, are able to extract all the silver and copper from the gold and to attract it to themselves.
It is not necessary for coiners to make absolutely pure gold, but to heat it only until such a fineness is obtained as is needed for the gold money which they are coining.
The gold is heated, and when it shows the necessary golden yellow colour and is wholly pure, it is melted and made into bars, in which case they are either prepared by the coiners with chyysocolla, which is called by the Moors borax, or are prepared with salt of lye made from the ashes of ivy or of other salty herbs.
The cement which has absorbed silver or copper, after water has been poured over it, is dried and crushed, and when mixed with hearth-lead and de-silverized lead, is smelted in the blast furnace. The alloy of silver and lead, or of silver and copper and lead, which flows out, is again melted in the cupellation furnace, in order that the lead and copper may be separated from the silver. The silver is finally thoroughly purified in the refining furnace, and in this practical manner there is no silver lost, or only a minute quantity.
There are besides this, certain other cements which part gold from silver, composed of sulphur, stibium and other ingredients. One of these compounds consists of half an uncia of vitriol dried by the heat of the fire and reduced to powder, a sixth of refined salt, a third of stibium, half a libra of prepared sulphur (not exposed to the fire), one sicilicus of glass, likewise one sicilicus of saltpetre, and a drachma of sal-ammoniac. The sulphur is prepared as follows : it is first crushed to powder, then it is heated for six hours in sharp vinegar, and finally poured into a vessel and washed with warm water; then that which settles at the bottom of the vessel is dried. To refine the salt it is placed in river water and boiled, and again evaporated. The second compound contains one libra of sulphur (not exposed to fire) and two librae of refined salt. The third compound is made from one libra of sulphur (not exposed to the fire), half a libra of refined salt, a quarter of a libra of sal-ammoniac, and one uncia of red-lead. The fourth compound consists of one libra each of refined salt, sulphur (not exposed to the fire) and argol, and half a libra of chrysocolla which the Moors call borax. The fifth compound has equal proportions of sulphur (not exposed to the fire), sal-ammoniac, saltpetre, and verdigris.
The silver which contains some portion of gold is first melted with lead in an earthen crucible, and they are heated together until the silver exhales the lead. If there was a libra of silver, there must be six drachmae of lead. Then the silver is sprinkled with two unciae of that powdered compound and is stirred; afterward it is poured into another crucible, first warmed and lined with tallow, and then violently shaken. The rest is performed according to the process I have already explained.
Gold may be parted without injury from silver goblets and from other gilt vessels and articles, by means of a powder, which consists of one part of sal-ammoniac and half a part of sulphur. The gilt goblet or other article is smeared with oil, and the powder is dusted on; the article is seized in the hand, or with tongs, and is carried to the fire and sharply tapped, and by this means the gold falls into water in vessels placed underneath, while the goblet remains uninjured.
Gold is also parted from silver on gilt articles by means of quicksilver. This is poured into an earthen crucible, and so warmed by the fire that the finger can bear the heat when dipped into it; the silver-gilt objects are placed in it, and when the quicksilver adheres to them they are taken out and placed on a dish, into which, when cooled, the gold falls, together with the quicksilver. Again and frequently the same silver-gilt object is placed in heated quicksilver, and the same process is continued until at last no more gold is visible on the object; then the object is placed in the fire, and the quicksilver which adheres to it is exhaled. Then the artificer takes a hare's foot, and brushes up into a dish the quicksilver and the gold which have fallen together from the silver article, and puts them into a cloth made of woven cotton or into a soft leather; the quicksilver is squeezed through one or the other into another dish. The gold remains in the cloth or the leather, and when collected is placed in a piece of charcoal hollowed out, and is heated until it melts, and a little button is made from it. This button is heated with a little stibium in an earthen crucible and poured out into another little vessel, by which method the gold settles at the bottom, and the stibium is seen to be on the top; then the work is completed. Finally, the gold button is put in a hollowed-out brick and placed in the fire, and by this method the gold is made pure. By means of the above methods gold is parted from silver and also silver from gold.
Now I will explain the methods used to separate copper from gold. The salt which we call sal-artificiosus, is made from a libra each of vitriol, alum, saltpetre, and sulphur not exposed to the fire, and half a libra of sal-ammoniac; these ingredients when crushed are heated with one part of lye made from the ashes used by wool dyers, one part of unslaked lime, and four parts of beech ashes. The ingredients are boiled in the lye until the whole has been dissolved. Then it is immediately dried and kept in a hot place, lest it turn into oil; and afterward when crushed, a libra of lead-ash is mixed with it. With each libra of this powdered compound one and a half unciae of the copper is gradually sprinkled into a hot crucible, and it is stirred rapidly and frequently with an iron rod. When the crucible has cooled and been broken up, the button of gold is found.
The second method for parting is the following. Two librae of sulphur not exposed to the fire, and four librae of refined salt are crushed and mixed; a sixth of a libra and half an uncia of this powder is added to a bes of granules made of lead, and twice as much copper containing gold; they are heated together in an earthen crucible until they melt. When cooled, the button is taken out and purged of slag. From this button they again make granules, to a third of a libra of which is added half a libra of that powder of which I have spoken, and they are placed in alternate layers in the crucible; it is well to cover the crucible and to seal it up, and afterward it is heated over a gentle fire until the granules melt. Soon afterward, the crucible is taken off the fire, and when it is cool the button is extracted. From this, when purified and again melted down, the third granules are made, to which, if they weigh a sixth of a libra, is added one half an uncia and a sicilicus of the powder, and they are heated in the same manner, and the button of gold settles at the bottom of the crucible.
The third method is as follows. From time to time small pieces of sulphur, enveloped in or mixed with wax, are dropped into six librae of the molten copper, and consumed; the sulphur weighs half an uncia and a sicilicus. Then one and a half sicilici of powdered saltpetre are dropped into the same copper and likewise consumed; then again half an uncia and a sicilicus of sulphur enveloped in wax; afterward one and a half sicilici of lead-ash enveloped in wax, or of minium made from red-lead. Then immediately the copper is taken out, and to the gold button, which is now mixed with only a little copper, they add stibium to double the amount of the button; these are heated together until the stibium is driven off; then the button, together with lead of half the weight of the button, are heated in a cupel. Finally, the gold is taken out of this and quenched, and if there is a blackish colour settled in it, it is melted with a little of the chrysocolla which the Moors call borax; if too pale, it is melted with stibium, and acquires its own golden-yellow colour. There are some who take out the molten copper with an iron ladle and pour it into another crucible, whose aperture is sealed up with lute, and they place it over glowing charcoal, and when they have thrown in the powders of which I have spoken, they stir the whole mass rapidly with an iron rod, and thus separate the gold from the copper; the former settles at the bottom of the crucible, the latter floats on the top. Then the aperture of the crucible is opened with the red-hot tongs, and the copper runs out. The gold which remains is re-heated with stibium, and when this is exhaled the gold is heated for the third time in a cupel with a fourth part of lead, and then quenched.
The fourth method is to melt one and a third librae of the copper with a sixth of a libra of lead, and to pour it into another crucible smeared on the inside with tallow or gypsum; and to this is added a powder consisting of half an uncia each of prepared sulphur, verdigris, and saltpetre, and an uncia and a half of sal coctus. The fifth method consists of placing in a crucible one libra of the copper and two librae of granulated lead, with one and a half unciae of sal-arti ficiosus; they are at first heated over a gentle fire and then over a fiercer one. The sixth method consists in heating together a bes of the copper and one-sixth of a libra each of sulphur, salt, and stibium. The seventh method consists of heating together a bes of the copper and one-sixth each of iron scales and filings, salt, stibium, and glass-galls. The eighth method consists of heating together one libra of the copper, one and a half librae of sulphur, half a libra of verdigris, and a libra of refined salt. The ninth method consists of placing in one libra of the molten copper as much pounded sulphur, not exposed to the fire, and of stirring it rapidly with an iron rod; the lump is ground to powder, into which quicksilver is poured, and this attracts to itself the gold.
Gilded copper articles are moistened with water and placed on the fire, and when they are glowing they are quenched with cold water, and the gold is scraped off with a brass rod. By these practical methods gold is separated from copper.
Either copper or lead is separated from silver by the methods which I will -now explain. This is carried on in a building near by the works, or in the works in which the gold or silver ores or alloys are smelted. The middle wall of such a building is twenty-one feet long and fifteen feet high, and from this a front wall is distant fifteen feet toward the river; the rear wall is nineteen feet distant, and both these walls are thirty-six feet long and fourteen feet high; a transverse wall extends from the end of the front wall to the end of the rear wall; then fifteen feet back a second transverse wall is built out from the front wall to the end of the middle wall. In that space which is between those two transverse walls are set up the stamps, by means of which the ores and the necessary ingredients for smelting are broken up. From the further end of the front wall, a third transverse wall leads to the other end of the middle wall, and from the same to the end of the rear wall. The space between the second and third transverse walls, and between the rear and middle long walls, contains the cupellation furnace, in which lead is separated from gold or silver. The vertical wall of its chimney is erected upon the middle wall, and the sloping chimney-wall rests on the beams which extend from the second transverse wall to the third; these are so located that they are at a distance of thirteen feet from the middle long wall and four from the rear wall, and they are two feet wide and thick. From the ground up to the roof-beams is twelve feet, and lest the sloping chimney-wall should fall down, it is partly supported by means of many iron rods, and partly by means of a few tie-beams covered with lute, which extend from the small beams of the sloping chimney-wall to the beams of the vertical chimney-wall. . The rear roof is arranged in the same way as the roof of the works in which ore is smelted. In the space between the middle and the front long walls and between the second and the third transverse walls are the bellows, the machinery for depressing and the instrument for raising them. A drum on the axle of a water-wheel has rundles which turn the toothed drum of an axle, whose long cams depress the levers of the bellows, and also another toothed drum on an axle, whose cams raise the tappets of the stamps, but in the opposite direction. So that if the cams which depress the levers of the bellows turn from north to south, the cams of the stamps turn from south to north.
Lead is separated from gold or silver in a cupellation furnace, of which the structure consists of rectangular stones, of two interior walls of which the one intersects the other transversely, of a round sole, and of a dome. Its crucible is made from powder of earth and ash; but I will first speak of the structure and also of the rectangular stones. A circular wall is built four feet and three palms high, and one foot thick; from the height of two feet and three palms from the bottom, the upper part of the interior is cut away to the width of one palm, so that the stone sole may rest upon it. There are usually as many as fourteen stones; on the outside they are a foot and a palm wide, and on the inside narrower, because the inner circle is much smaller than the outer; if the stones are wider, fewer are required, if narrower more; they are sunk into the earth to a depth of a foot and a palm. At the top each one is joined to the next by an iron staple, the points of which are embedded in holes, and into each hole is poured molten lead. This stone structure has six air-holes near the ground, at a height of a foot above the ground; they are two feet and a palm from the bottom of the stones; each of these air-holes is in two stones, and is two palms high, and a palm and three digits wide. One of them is on the right side, between the wall which protects the main wall from the fire, and the channel through which the litharge flows out of the furnace crucible; the other five air-holes are distributed all round at equal distances apart; through these escapes the moisture which the earth exhales when heated, and if it were not for these openings the crucible would absorb the moisture and be damaged. In such a case a lump would be raised, like that which a mole throws up from the earth, and the ash would float on the top, and the crucible would absorb the silver-lead alloy; there are some who, because of this, make the rear part of the structure entirely open. The two inner walls, of which one intersects the other, are built of bricks, and are a brick in thickness. There are four air-holes in these, one in each part, which are about one digit's breadth higher and wider than the others. Into the four compartments is thrown a wheelbarrowful of slag, and over this is placed a large wicker basket full of charcoal dust. These walls extend a cubit above the ground, and on these, and on the ledge cut in the rectangular stones, is placed the stone sole; this sole is a palm and three digits thick, and on all sides touches the rectangular stones; if there are any cracks in it they are filled up with fragments of stone or brick. The front part of the sole is sloped so that a channel can be made, through which the litharge flows out. Copper plates are placed on this part of the sole-stone so that the silver-lead or other alloy may be more rapidly heated.
A dome which has the shape of half a sphere covers the crucible. It consists of iron bands and of bars and of a lid. There are three bands, each about a palm wide and a digit thick; the lowest is at a distance of one foot from the middle one, and the middle one a distance of two feet from the upper one. Under them are eighteen iron bars fixed by iron rivets; these bars are of the same width and thickness as the bands, and they are of such a length, that curving, they reach from the lower band to the upper, that is two feet and three palms long, while the dome is only one foot and three palms high. All the bars and bands of the dome have iron plates fastened on the underside with iron wire. In addition, the dome has four apertures; the rear one, which is situated opposite the channel through which the litharge flows out, is two feet wide at the bottom; toward the top, since it slopes gently, it is narrower, being a foot, three palms, and a digit wide; there is no bar at this place, for the aperture extends from the upper band to the middle one, but not to the lower one. The second aperture is situated above the channel, is two and a half feet wide at the bottom, and two feet and a palm at the top; and there is likewise no bar at this point; indeed, not only does the bar not extend to the lower band, but the lower band itself does not extend over this part, in order that the master can draw the litharge out of the crucible. There are besides, in the wall which protects the principal wall against the heat, near where the nozzles of the bellows are situated, two apertures, three palms wide and about a foot high, in the middle of which two rods descend, fastened on the inside with plates. Near these apertures are placed the nozzles of the bellows, and through the apertures extend the pipes in which the nozzles of the bellows are set. These pipes are made of iron plates rolled up; they are two palms three digits long, and their inside diameter is three and a half digits; into these two pipes the nozzles of the bellows penetrate a distance of three digits from their valves. The lid of the dome consists of an iron band at the bottom, two digits wide, and of three curved iron bars, which extend from one point on the band to the point opposite; they cross each other at the top, where they are fixed by means of iron rivets. On the under side of the bars there are likewise plates fastened by rivets; each of the plates has small holes the size of a finger, so that the lute will adhere when the interior is lined. The dome has three iron rings engaged in wide holes in the heads of iron claves, which fasten the bars to the middle band at these points. Into these rings are fastened the hooks of the chains with which the dome is raised, when the master is preparing the crucible.
On the sole and the copper plates and the rock of the furnace, lute mixed with straw is placed to a depth of three digits, and it is pounded with a wooden rammer until it is compressed to a depth of one digit only. The rammer-head is round and three palms high, two palms wide at the bottom, and tapering upward; its handle is three feet long, and where it is set into the rammer-head it is bound around with an iron band. The top of the stonework in which the dome rests is also covered with lute, likewise mixed with straw, to the thickness of a palm. All this, as soon as it becomes loosened, must be repaired.
The artificer who undertakes the work of parting the metals, distributes the operation into two shifts of two days. On the one morning he sprinkles a little ash into the lute, and when he has poured some water over it he brushes it over with a broom. Then he throws in sifted ashes and dampens them with water, so that they could be moulded into balls like snow. The ashes are those from which lye has been made by letting water percolate through them, for other ashes which are fatty would have to be burnt again in order to make them less fat. When he has made the ashes smooth by pressing them with his hands, he makes the crucible slope down toward the middle; then he tamps it, as I have described, with a rammer. He afterward, with two small wooden rammers, one held in each hand, forms the channel through which the litharge flows out. The heads of these small rammers are each a palm wide, two digits thick, and one foot high; the handle of each is somewhat rounded, is a digit and a half less in diameter than the rammer-head, and is three feet in length; the rammer-head as well as the handle is made of one piece of wood. Then with shoes on, he descends into the crucible and stamps it in every direction with his feet, in which manner it is packed and made sloping. Then he again tamps it with a large rammer, and removing his shoe from his right foot he draws a circle around the crucible with it, and cuts out the circle thus drawn with an iron plate. This plate is curved at both ends, is three palms long, as many digits wide, and has wooden handles a palm and two digits long, and two digits thick; the iron plate is curved back at the top and ends, which penetrate into handles. There are some who use in the place of the plate a strip of wood, like the rim of a sieve; this is three digits wide, and is cut out at both ends that it may be held in the hands. Afterward he tamps the channel through which the litharge discharges. Lest the ashes should fall out, he blocks up the aperture with a stone shaped to fit it, against which he places a board, and lest this fall, he props it with a stick. Then he pours in a basketful of ashes and tamps them with the large rammer; then again and again he pours in ashes and tamps them with the rammer. When the channel has been made, he throws dry ashes all over the crucible with a sieve, and smooths and rubs it with his hands. Then he throws three basketsful of damp ashes on the margin all round the edge of the crucible, and lets down the dome. Soon after, climbing upon the crucible, he builds up ashes all around it, lest the molten alloy should flow out. Then, having raised the lid of the dome, he throws a basketful of charcoal into the crucible, together with an iron shovelful of glowing coals, and he also throws some of the latter through the apertures in the sides of the dome, and he spreads them with the same shovel. This work and labour is finished in the space of two hours.
An iron plate is set in the ground under the channel, and upon this is placed a wooden block, three feet and a palm long, a foot and two palms and as many digits wide at the back, and two palms and as many digits wide in front; on the block of wood is placed a 'stone, and over it an iron plate similar to the bottom one, and upon this he puts a basketful of charcoal, and also an iron shovelful of burning charcoals. The crucible is heated in an hour, and then, with the hooked bar with which the litharge is drawn off, he stirs the remainder of the charcoal about. This hook is a palm long and three digits wide, has the form of a double triangle, and has an iron handle four feet long, into which is set a wooden one six feet long. There are some who use instead a simple hooked bar. After about an hour's time, he stirs the charcoal again with the bar, and with the shovel throws into the crucible the burning charcoals lying in the channel; then again, after the space of an hour, he stirs the burning charcoals with the same bar. If he did not thus stir them about, some blackness would remain in the crucible and that part would be damaged, because it would not be sufficiently dried. Therefore the assistant stirs and turns the burning charcoal that it may be entirely burnt up, and so that the crucible may be well heated, which takes three hours; then the crucible is left quiet for the remaining two hours.
When the hour of eleven has struck, he sweeps up the charcoal ashes with a broom and throws them out of the crucible. Then he climbs on to the dome, and passing his hand in through its opening, and dipping an old linen rag in a bucket of water mixed with ashes, he moistens the whole of the crucible and sweeps it. In this way he uses two bucketsful of the mixture, each holding five Roman sextarii, and he does this lest the crucible, when the metals are being parted, should break open; after this he rubs the crucible with a doe skin, and fills in the cracks. Then he places at the left side of the channel, two fragments of hearth-lead, laid one on the top of the other, so that when partly melted they remain fixed and form an obstacle, that the litharge will not be blown about by the wind from the bellows, but remain in its place. It is expedient, however, to use a brick in the place of the hearth-lead, for as this gets much hotter, therefore it causes the litharge to form more rapidly. The crucible in its middle part is made two palms and as many digits deeper.
There are some who having thus prepared the crucible, smear it over with incense, ground to powder and dissolved in white of egg, soaking it up in a sponge and then squeezing it out again; there are others who smear over it a liquid consisting of white of egg and double the amount of bullock's blood or marrow. Some throw lime into the crucible through a sieve.
Afterward the master of the works weighs the lead with which the gold or silver or both are mixed, and he sometimes puts a hundred centumpondia into the crucible, but frequently only sixty, or fifty, or much less. After it has been weighed, he strews about in the crucible three small bundles of straw, lest the lead by its weight should break the surface. Then he places in the channel several cakes of lead alloy, and through the aperture at the rear of the dome he places some along the sides; then, ascending to the opening at the top of the dome, he arranges in the crucible round about the dome the cakes which his assistant hands to him, and after ascending again and passing his hands through the same aperture, he likewise places other cakes inside the crucible. On the second day those which remain he, with an iron fork, places on the wood through the rear aperture of the dome.
When the cakes have been thus arranged through the hole at the top of the dome, he throws in charcoal with a basket woven of wooden twigs. Then he places the lid over the dome, and the assistant covers over the joints with lute. The master himself throws half a basketful of charcoal into the crucible through the aperture next to the nozzle pipe, and prepares the bellows, in order to be able to begin the second operation on the morning of the following day. It takes the space of one hour to carry out such a piece of work, and at twelve all is prepared. These hours all reckoned up make a sum of eight hours.
Now it is time that we should come to the second operation. In the morning the workman takes up two shovelsful of live charcoals and throws them into the crucible through the aperture next to the pipes of the nozzles; then through the same hole he lays upon them small pieces of fir-wood or of pitch pine, such as are generally used to cook fish. After this the water-gates are opened, in order that the machine may be turned which depresses the levers of the bellows. In the space of one hour the lead alloy is melted; and when this has been done, he places four sticks of wood, twelve feet long, through the hole in the back of the dome, and as many through the channel; these sticks, lest they should damage the crucible, are both weighted on the ends and supported by trestles; these trestles are made of a beam, three feet long, two palms and as many digits wide, two palms thick, and have two spreading legs at each end. Against the trestle, in front of the channel, there is placed an iron plate, lest the litharge, when it is extracted from the furnace, should splash the smelter's shoes and injure his feet and legs. With an iron shovel or a fork he places the remainder of the cakes through the aperture at the back of the dome on to the sticks of wood already mentioned.
The native silver, or silver glance, or grey silver, or ruby silver, or any other sort, when it has been flattened out, and cut up, and heated in an iron crucible, is poured into the molten lead mixed with silver, in order that impurities may be separated. As I have often said, this molten lead mixed with silver is called stannum.
When the long sticks of wood are burned up at the fore end, the master, with a hammer, drives into them pointed iron bars, four feet long and two digits wide at the front end, and beyond that one and a half digits wide and thick; with these he pushes the sticks of wood forward and the bars then rest on the trestles. There are others who, when they separate metals, put two such sticks of wood into the crucible through the aperture which is between the bellows, as many through the holes at the back, and one through the channel; but in this case a larger number of long sticks of wood is necessary, that is, sixty; in the former case, forty long sticks of wood suffice to carry out the operation. When the lead has been heated for two hours, it is stirred with a hooked bar, that the heat may be increased.
If it be difficult to separate the lead from the silver, he throws copper and charcoal dust into the molten silver-lead alloy. If the alloy of argentiferous gold and lead, or the silver-lead alloy, contains impurities from the ore, then he throws in either equal portions of argol and Venetian glass or of sal-ammoniac, or of Venetian glass and of Venetian soap; or else unequal portions, that is, two of argol and one of iron rust; there are some who mix a little saltpetre with each compound. To one centumpondium of the alloy is added a bes or a libra and a third of the powder, according to whether it is more or less impure. The powder certainly separates the impurities from the alloy. Then, with a kind of rabble he draws out through the channel, mixed with charcoal, the scum, as one might say, of the lead; the lead makes this scum when it becomes hot, but that less of it may be made it must be stirred frequently with the bar.
Within the space of a quarter of an hour the crucible absorbs the lead; at the time when it penetrates into the crucible it leaps and bubbles. Then the master takes out a little lead with an iron ladle, which he assays, in order to find what proportion of silver there is in the whole of the alloy; the ladle is five digits wide, the iron part of its handle is three feet long and the wooden part the same. Afterward, when they are heated, he extracts with a bar the litharge which comes from the lead and the copper, if there be any of it in the alloy. Wherefore, it might more rightly be called spuma of lead than of silver. There is no injury to the silver, when the lead and copper are separated from it. In truth the lead becomes much purer in the crucible of the other furnace, in which silver is refined. In ancient times, as the author Pliny relates, there was under the channel of the crucible another crucible, and the litharge flowed down from the upper one into the lower one, out of which it was lifted up and rolled round with a stick in order that it might be of moderate weight. For which reason, they formerly made it into small tubes or pipes, but now, since it is not rolled round a stick, they make it into bars.
If there be any danger that the alloy might flow out with the litharge, the foreman keeps on hand a piece of lute, shaped like a cylinder and pointed at both ends; fastening this to a hooked bar he opposes it to the alloy so that it will not flow out.
Now when the colour begins to show in the silver, bright spots appear, some of them being almost white, and a moment afterward it becomes absolutely white. Then the assistant lets down the water-gates, so that, the race being closed, the water-wheel ceases to turn and the bellows are still. Then the master pours several buckets of water on to the silver to cool it; others pour beer over it to make it whiter, but this is of no importance since the silver has yet to be refined. Afterward, the cake of silver is raised with the pointed iron bar, which is three feet long and two digits wide, and has a wooden handle four feet long fixed in its socket. When the cake of silver has been taken from the crucible, it is laid upon a stone, and from part of it the hearth-lead, and from the other part the litharge, is chipped away with a hammer; then it is cleansed with a bundle of brass wire dipped in water. When the lead is separated from the silver, more silver is frequently found than when it was assayed; for instance, if before there were three unciae and as many drachmae in a centumpondium, they now sometimes find three unciae and a half. Often the hearth-lead remaining in the crucible is a palm deep; it is taken out with the rest of the ashes and is sifted, and that which remains in the sieve, since it is hearth-lead, is added to the hearth-lead.
The ashes which pass through the sieve are of the same use as they were at first, for, indeed, from these and pulverised bones they make the cupels. Finally, when much of it has accumulated, the yellow pompholyx adhering to the walls of the furnace, and likewise to those rings of the dome near the apertures, is cleared away.
I must also describe the crane with which the dome is raised. When it is made, there is first set up a rectangular upright post twelve feet long, each side of which measures a foot in width. Its lower pinion turns in a bronze socket set in an oak sill; there are two sills placed crosswise so that the one fits in a mortise in the middle of the other, and the other likewise fits in the mortise of the first, thus making a kind of a cross; these sills are three feet long and one foot wide and thick. The crane-post is round at its upper end and is cut down to a depth of three palms, and turns in a band fastened at each end to a roof-beam, from which springs the inclined chimney wall. To the crane-post is affixed a frame, which is made in this way: first, at a height of a cubit from the bottom, is mortised into the crane-post a small cross-beam, a cubit and three digits long, except its tenons, and two palms in width and thickness. Then again, at a height of five feet above it, is another small cross-beam of equal length, width, and thickness, mortised into the crane-post. The other ends of these two small cross-beams are mortised into an upright timber, six feet three palms long, and three-quarters wide and thick; the mortise is transfixed by wooden pegs. Above, at a height of three palms from the lower small cross-beam, are two bars, one foot one palm long, not including the tenons, a palm three digits wide, and a palm thick, which are mortised in the other sides of the crane-post. In the same manner, under the upper small cross-beam are two bars of the same size. Also in the upright timber there are mortised the same number of bars, of the same length as the preceding, but three digits thick, a palm two digits wide, the two lower ones being above the lower small cross-beam. From the upright timber near the upper small cross-beam, which at its other end is mortised into the crane-post, are two mortised bars. On the outside of this frame, boards are fixed to the small cross-beams, but the front and back parts of the frame have doors, whose hinges are fastened to the boards which are fixed to the bars that are mortised to the sides of the crane-post.
Then boards are laid upon the lower small cross-beam, and at a height of two palms above these there is a small square iron axle, the sides of which are two digits wide; both ends of it are round and turn in bronze or iron bearings, one of these bearings being fastened in the crane-post, the other in the upright timber. About each end of the small axle is a wooden disc, of three palms and a digit radius and one palm thick, covered on the rim with an iron band; these two discs are distant two palms and as many digits from each other, and are joined with five rundles; these rundles are two and a half digits thick and are placed three digits apart. Thus a drum is made, which is a palm and a digit distant from the upright timber, but further from the crane-post, namely, a palm and three digits. At a height of a foot and a palm above this little axle is a second small square iron axle, the thickness of which is three digits; this one, like the first one, turns in bronze or iron bearings. Around it is a toothed wheel, composed of two discs a foot three palms in diameter, a palm and two digits thick; on the rim of this there are twenty-three teeth, a palm wide and two digits thick; they protrude a palm from the wheel and are three digits apart. And around this same axle, at a distance of two palms and as many digits toward the upright timber, is another disc of the same diameter as the wheel and a palm thick; this turns in a hollowed-out place in the upright timber. Between this disc and the disc of the toothed wheel another drum is made, having likewise five rundles. There is, in addition to this second axle, at a height of a cubit above it, a small wooden axle, the journals of which are of iron; the ends are bound round with iron rings so that the journals may remain firmly fixed, and the journals, like the little iron axles, turn in bronze or iron bearings. This third axle is at a distance of about a cubit from the upper small cross-beam; it has, near the upright timber, a toothed wheel two and a half feet in diameter, on the rim of which are twenty-seven teeth; the other part of this axle, near the crane-post, is covered with iron plates, lest it should be worn away by the chain which winds around it. The end link of the chain is fixed in an iron pin driven into the little axle; this chain passes out of the frame and turns over a little pulley set between the beams of the crane-arm.
Above the frame, at a height of a foot and a palm, is the crane-arm. This consists of two beams fifteen feet long, three palms wide, and two thick, mortised into the crane-post, and they protrude a cubit from the back of the crane-post and are fastened together. Moreover, they are fastened by means of a wooden pin which penetrates through them and the crane-post; this pin has at the one end a broad head, and at the other a hole, through which is driven an iron bolt, so that the beams may be tightly bound into the crane-post. The beams of the crane-arm are supported and stayed by means of two oblique beams, six feet and two palms long, and likewise two palms wide and thick; these are mortised into the crane-post at their lower ends, and their upper ends are mortised into the beams of the crane-arm at a point about four feet from the crane-post, and they are fastened with iron nails. At the back of the upper end of these oblique beams, toward the crane-post, is an iron staple, fastened into the lower sides of the beams of the crane-arm, in order that it may hold them fast and bind them. The outer end of each beam of the crane-arm is set in a rectangular iron plate, and between these are three rectangular iron plates, fixed in such a manner that the beams of the crane-arm can neither move away from, nor toward, each other. The upper sides of these crane-arm beams are covered with iron plates for a length of six feet, so that a trolley can move on it.
The body of the trolley is made of wood from the Ostrya or any other hard tree, and is a cubit long, a foot wide, and three palms thick; on both edges of it the lower side is cut out to a height and width of a palm, so that the remainder may move backward and forward between the two beams of the crane-arm; at the front, in the middle part, it is cut out to a width of two palms and as many digits, that a bronze pulley, around a small iron axle, may turn in it. Near the corners of the trolley are four holes, in which as many small wheels travel on the beams of the crane-arm. Since this trolley, when it travels backward and forward, gives out a sound somewhat similar to the barking of a dog, we have given it this name. It is propelled forward by means of a crank, and is drawn back by means of a chain. There is an iron hook whose ring turns round an iron pin fastened to the right side of the trolley, which hook is held by a sort of clavis, which is fixed in the right beam of the crane-arm.
At the end of the crane-post is a bronze pulley, the iron axle of which is fastened in the beams of the crane-arm, and over which the chain passes as it comes from the frame, and then, penetrating through the hollow in the top of the trolley, it reaches to the little bronze pulley of the trolley, and passing over this it hangs down. A hook on its end engages a ring, in which are fixed the top links of three chains, each six feet long, which pass through the three iron rings fastened in the holes of the claves which are fixed into the middle iron band of the dome, of which I have spoken.
Therefore when the master wishes to lift the dome by means of the crane, the assistant fits over the lower small iron axle an iron crank, which projects from the upright beam a palm and two digits; the end of the little axle is rectangular, and one and a half digits wide and one digit thick; it is set into a similar rectangular hole in the crank, which is two digits long and a little more than a digit wide. The crank is semi-circular, and one foot three palms and two digits long, as many digits wide, and one digit thick. Its handle is straight and round, and three palms long, and one and a half digits thick. There is a hole in the end of the little axle, through which an iron pin is driven so that the crank may not come off. The crane having four drums, two of which are rundle-drums and two toothed-wheels, is more easily moved than another having two drums, one of which has rundles and the other teeth.
Many, however, use only a simple contrivance, the pivots of whose crane-post turn in the same manner, the one in an iron socket, the other in a ring. There is a crane-arm on the crane-post, which is supported by an oblique beam; to the head of the crane-arm a strong iron ring is fixed, which engages a second iron ring. In this iron ring a strong wooden lever-bar is fastened firmly, the head of which is bound by a third iron ring, from which hangs an iron hook, which engages the rings at the ends of the chains from the dome. At the other end of the lever-bar is another chain, which, when it is pulled down, raises the opposite end of the bar and thus the dome; and when it is relaxed the dome is lowered.
In certain places, as at Freiberg in Meissen, the upper part of the cupellation furnace is vaulted almost like an oven. This chamber is four feet high and has either two or three apertures, of which the first, in front, is one and a half feet high and a foot wide, and out of this flows the litharge; the second aperture and likewise the third, if there be three, are at the sides, and are a foot and a half high and two and a half feet wide, in order that he who prepares the crucible may be able to creep into the furnace. Its circular bed is made of cement, it has two passages two feet high and one foot wide, for letting out the vapour, and these lead directly through from one side to the other, so that the one passage crosses the other at right angles, and thus four openings are to be seen; these are covered at the top by rocks, wide, but only a palm thick. On these and on the other parts of the interior of the bed made of cement, is placed lute mixed with straw, to a depth of three digits, as it was placed over the sole and the plates of copper and the rocks of that other furnace. This, together with the ashes which are thrown in, the master or the assistant, who, upon his knees, prepares the crucible, tamps down with short wooden rammers and with mallets likewise made of wood.
The cupellation furnace in Poland and Hungary is likewise vaulted at the top, and is almost similar to an oven, but in the lower part the bed is solid, and there is no opening for the vapours, while on one side of the crucible is a wall, between which and the bed of the crucible is a passage in place of the opening for vapours; this passage is covered by iron bars or rods extending from the wall to the crucible, and placed a distance of two digits from each other. In the crucible, when it is prepared, they first scatter straw, and then they lay in it cakes of silver-lead alloy, and on the iron bars they lay wood, which when kindled heats the crucible. They melt cakes to the weight of sometimes eighty centumpondia and sometimes a hundred centumpondia. They stimulate a mild fire by means of a blast from the bellows, and throw on to the bars as much wood as is required to make a flame which will reach into the crucible, and separate the lead from the silver. The litharge is drawn out on the other side through an aperture that is just wide enough for the master to creep through into the crucible. The Moravians and Carni, who very rarely make more than a bes or five-sixths of a libra of silver, separate the lead from it, neither in a furnace resembling an oven, nor in the crucible covered by a dome, but on a crucible which is without a cover and exposed to the wind; on this crucible they lay cakes of silver-lead alloy, and over them they place dry wood, and over these again thick green wood. The wood having been kindled, they stimulate the fire by means of a bellows.
I have explained the method of separating lead from gold or silver. Now I will speak of the method of refining silver, for I have already explained the process for refining gold. Silver is refined in a refining furnace, over whose hearth is an arched chamber built of bricks; this chamber in the front part is three feet high. The hearth itself is five feet long an four wide. The walls are unbroken along the sides and back, but in front one chamber is placed over the other, and above these and the wall is the upright chimney. The hearth has a round pit, a cubit wide and two palms deep, into which are thrown sifted ashes, and in this is placed a prepared earthenware " test," in such a manner that it is surrounded on all sides by ashes to a height equal to its own. The earthenware test is filled with a powder consisting of equal portions of bones ground to powder, and of ashes taken from the crucible in which lead is separated from gold or silver; others mix crushed brick with the ashes, for by this method the powder attracts no silver to itself. When the powder has been made up and moistened with water, a little is thrown into the earthenware test and tamped with a wooden pestle. This pestle is round, a foot long, and a palm and a digit wide, out of which extend six teeth, each a digit thick, and a digit and a third long and wide, and almost a digit apart; these six teeth form a circle, and in the centre of them is the seventh tooth, which is round and of the same length as the others, but a digit and a half thick; this pestle tapers a little from the bottom up, that the upper part of the handle may be round and three digits thick. Some use a round pestle without teeth. Then a little powder is again moistened, and thrown into the test, and tamped; this work is repeated until the test is entirely full of the powder, which the master then cuts out with a knife, sharp on both sides, and turned upward at both ends so that the central part is a palm and a digit long; therefore it is partly straight and partly curved. The blade is one and a half digits wide, and at each end it turns upward two palms, which ends to the depth of a palm are either not sharpened or they are enclosed in wooden handles. The master holds the knife with one hand and cuts out the powder from the test, so that it is left three digits thick all round; then he sifts the powder of dried bones over it through a sieve, the bottom of which is made of closely-woven bristles. Afterward a ball made of very hard wood, six digits in diameter, is placed in the test and rolled about with both hands, in order to make the inside even and smooth; for that matter he may move the ball about with only one hand. The tests are of various capacities, for some of them when prepared hold much less than fifteen librae of silver, others twenty, some thirty, others forty, and others fifty. All these tests thus prepared are dried in the sun, or set in a warm and covered place; the more dry and old they are the better. All of them, when used for refining silver, are heated by means of burning charcoal placed in them. Others use instead of these tests an iron ring; but the test is more useful, for if the powder deteriorates the silver remains in it, while there being no bottom to the ring, it falls out; besides, it is easier to place in the hearth the test than the iron ring, and furthermore it requires much less powder. In order that the test should not break and damage the silver, some bind it round with an iron band.
In order that they may be more easily broken, the silver cakes are placed upon an iron grate by the refiner, and are heated by burning charcoal placed under them. He has a brass block two palms and two digits long and wide, with a channel in the middle, which he places upon a block of hard wood. Then with a double-headed hammer, he beats the hot cakes of silver placed on the brass block, and breaks them in pieces. The head of this hammer is a foot and two digits long, and a palm wide. Others use for this purpose merely a block of wood channelled in the top. While the fragments of the cake are still hot, he seizes them with the tongs and throws them into a bowl with holes in the bottom, and pours water over them. When the fragments are cooled, he puts them nicely into the test by placing them so that they stand upright and project from the test to a height of two palms, and lest one should fall against the other, he places little pieces of charcoal between them; then he places live charcoal in the test, and soon two twig basketsful of charcoal. Then he blows in air with the bellows. This bellows is double, and four feet two palms long, and two feet and as many palms wide at the back; the other parts are similar to those described in Book VII. The nozzle of the bellows is placed in a bronze pipe a foot long, the aperture in this pipe being a digit in diameter in front and quite round, and at the back two palms wide. The master, because he needs for the operation of refining silver a fierce fire, and requires on that account a vigorous blast, places the bellows very much inclined, in order that, when the silver has melted, it may blow into the centre of the test. When the silver bubbles, he presses the nozzle down by means of a small block of wood moistened with water and fastened to an iron rod, the outer end of which bends upward. The silver melts when it has been heated in the test for about an hour; when it is melted, he removes the live coals from the test and places over it two billets of fir-wood, a foot and three palms long, a palm two digits wide, one palm thick at the upper part, and three digits at the lower. He joins them together at the lower edges, and into the billets he again throws the coals, for a fierce fire is always necessary in refining silver. It is refined in two or three hours, according to whether it was pure or impure, and if it is impure it is made purer by dropping granulated copper or lead into the test at the same time. In order that the refiner may sustain the great heat from the fire while the silver is being refined, he lets down an iron door, which is three feet long and a foot and three palms high; this door is held on both ends in iron plates, and when the operation is concluded, he raises it again with an iron shovel, so that its edge holds against the iron hook in the arch, and thus the door is held open. When the silver is nearly refined, which may be judged by the space of time, he dips into it an iron bar, three and a half feet long and a digit thick, having a round steel point. The small drops of silver that adhere to the bar he places on the brass block and flattens with a hammer, and from their colour he decides whether the silver is sufficiently refined or not. If it is thoroughly purified it is very white, and in a bes there is only a drachma of impurities. Some ladle up the silver with a hollow iron implement. Of each bes of silver one sicilicus is consumed, or occasionally when very impure, three drachmae or half an uncia.
The refiner governs the fire and stirs the molten silver with an iron implement, nine feet long, a digit thick, and at the end first curved toward the right, then curved back in order to form a circle, the interior of which is a palm in diameter; others use an iron implement, the end of which is bent directly upward. Another iron implement has the shape of tongs, with which, by compressing it with his hands, he seizes the coals and puts them on or takes them off; this is two feet long, one and a half digits wide, and the third of a digit thick.
When the silver is seen to be thoroughly refined, the artificer removes the coals from the test with a shovel. Soon afterward he draws water in a copper ladle, which has a wooden handle four feet long; it has a small hole at a point half-way between the middle of the bowl and the edge, through which a hemp seed just passes. He fills this ladle three times with water, and three times it all flows out through the hole on to the silver, and slowly quenches it; if he suddenly poured much water on it, it would burst asunder and injure those standing near. The artificer has a pointed iron bar, three feet long, which has a wooden handle as many feet long, and he puts the end of this bar into the test in order to stir it. He also stirs it with a hooked iron bar, of which the hook is two digits wide and a palm deep, and the iron part of its handle is three feet long and the wooden part the same. Then he removes the test from the hearth with a shovel or a fork, and turns it over, and by this means the silver falls to the ground in the shape of half a sphere; then lifting the cake with a shovel he throws it into a tub of water, where it gives out a great sound. Or else, having lifted the cake of silver with a fork, he lays it upon the iron implement similar to tongs, which are placed across a tub full of water; afterward, when cooled, he takes it from the tub again and lays it on the block made of hard wood and beats it with a hammer, in order to break off any of the powder from the test which adheres to it. The cake is then placed on the implement similar to tongs, laid over the tub full of water, and cleaned with a bundle of brass wire dipped into the water; this operation of beating and cleansing is repeated until it is all clean. Afterward he places it on an iron grate or tripod; the tripod is a palm and two digits high, one and a half digits wide, and its span is two palms wide; then he puts burning charcoal under the tripod or grate, in order again to dry the silver that was moistened by the water. Finally, the Royal Inspector in the employment of the King or Prince, or the owner, lays the silver on a block of wood, and with an engraver's chisel he cuts out two small pieces, one from the under and the other from the upper side. These are tested by fire, in order to ascertain whether the silver is thoroughly refined or not, and at what price it should be sold to the merchants. Finally he impresses upon it the seal of the King or the Prince or the owner, and, near the same, the amount of the weight.
There are some who refine silver in tests placed under iron or earthenware muffles. They use a furnace, on the hearth of which they place the test containing the fragments of silver, and they place the muffle over it; the muffle has small windows at the sides, and in front a little bridge. In order to melt the silver, at the sides of the muffle are laid bricks, upon which the charcoal is placed, and burning firebrands are put on the bridge. The furnace has an iron door, which is covered on the side next to the fire with lute in order that it may not be injured. When the door is closed it retains the heat of the fire, but it has a small window, so that the artificers may look into the test and may at times stimulate the fire with the bellows. Although by this method silver is refined more slowly than by the other, nevertheless it is more useful, because less loss is caused, for a gentle fire consumes fewer particles than a fierce fire continually excited by the blast of the bellows. If, on account of its great size, the cake of silver can be carried only with difficulty when it is taken out of the muffle, they cut it up into two or three pieces while it is still hot, with a wedge or a hammer-chisel; for if they cut it up after it has cooled, little pieces of it frequently fly off and are lost.
END OF BOOK X.