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Ch. 3: Argentum, Silver

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ARGENTUM.
125
A very ancient traditionary process was evidently the method of refining silver used in the Delhi mint, as follows : " They dig a hole, and having sprinkled in it a small quan­tity of the ashes of field cow-dung, they fill it with the ashes of Babool-wood, then they moisten it, and work it up into the shape of a dish or coppel ; into this they put the adulterated silver together with an equal quantity of lead after the following manner : 1st. They put with the silver the fourth part of the lead, and surrounding the coppel with coals blow the fire until the metals are melted. This operation they repeat as often as is necessary, but in most instances four times are required. The proofs of the metal being pure are the brightness thereof, and its be­ginning to harden at the sides. When it is hardened in the middle they sprinkle it with water, when if a flame issues from it, it is arrived at the required degree of fine­ness, and if they melt this mass again there will be lost half a ruttee in every tolah (one part in 192). The coppel becomes a kind of litharge which in the Hindustani lan­guage they call kehrel."
The ancients, who classed minerals for the most part by the eye, considered native Quicksilver, " argentum vivum," as a rare variety of this metal, occurring in the same mines, like a running issue, always liquid, proceeding from the metallic veins, " vomica liquoris aeterni." They imagined it to be something quite different from the " Hydrargyrum" extracted from the Minium (Sulphuret of Mercury) by sublimation. This Minium,* the Vermilion used in painting, Theophrastus relates, was, eighty years before his time, discovered by Callias, an Athenian, who, from the bril­liant red of the ore, imagined it contained gold, and making experiments upon it, failed in that expectation,
* Miniaria (fedina), the quicksilver-mine, is the source of the Italian " miniera," and of our " mine."
Ch. 3:  Argentum, Silver Page of 377 Ch. 3:  Argentum, Silver
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