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Ch. 5: Aurum, Gold

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AURUM.
207
through Parliament, the collective wisdom of the three kingdoms not being sufficiently practical to espy ifs true object, that of legalising the grossest fraud. By this Bill it was allowed to Hall-mark gold of 15, of 12, and (it sounds incredible) as base as 9 carats ! mere aurichalcum or billon. This concession, wheedled out of ignorance by roguery, has fully answered the ends of its promoters ; articles in this vile alloy, strongly gilt, are sold under the time-honoured prestige of the Hall-mark. Few pur­chasers are aware of the change in the law : the carats are marked, it is true, but the minute numerals are un­observed, or purposely obscured.
Our standard for silver (both coin and plate) from the Nor­man times down, has been very high, only 18 pennyweights alloy to the pound Troy, or less than one-thirteenth. Under William III. this standard was, for a few years, raised to quite fine for plate alone, probably with the view of preventing the melting down the coin for that purpose. Plate of this quality is stamped with a figure of Britannia in one of the punch-marks. But to the disgrace of our times, the Bill above mentioned also legalised a similar imposi­tion upon the buyer (the exact extent however has escaped my memory) in the quality of silver plate, disguised by the proviso " for exportation."
The Romans had many alloys of gold, but all desig nated by distinct appellations, their " aurum " always standing for the refined metal. Thus gold containing as much as one-fifth of silver took the name of Electrum. Some was found native in the Spanish gold-washings, some was an artificial alloy. It was in request for drinking-vessels, partly because it was more lustrous by lamplight than the unalloyed metal, partly because the native kind was supposed to betray the presence of poison in the draught it contained by a changing colour and a crackling
Ch. 5: Aurum, Gold Page of 377 Ch. 5: Aurum, Gold
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