Skip to comments.Ancient Technology for Metal Coatings 2,000 Years Ago Can't Be Matched Even Today
Posted on 07/27/2013 8:41:54 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
Artists and craftsmen more than 2,000 years ago developed thin-film coating technology unrivaled even by today's standards for producing DVDs, solar cells, electronic devices and other products. Understanding these sophisticated metal-plating techniques from ancient times, described in the ACS journal Accounts of Chemical Research, could help preserve priceless artistic and other treasures from the past. Share This:
Gabriel Maria Ingo and colleagues point out that scientists have made good progress in understanding the chemistry of many ancient artistic and other artifacts -- crucial to preserve them for future generations. Big gaps in knowledge remained, however, about how gilders in the Dark Ages and other periods applied such lustrous, impressively uniform films of gold or silver to intricate objects. Ingo's team set out to apply the newest analytical techniques to uncover the ancients' artistic secrets.
They discovered that gold- and silversmiths 2,000 years ago developed a variety of techniques, including using mercury like a glue to apply thin films of metals to statues and other objects. Sometimes, the technology was used to apply real gold and silver. It also was used fraudulently, to make cheap metal statues that look like solid gold or silver. The scientists say that their findings confirm "the high level of competence reached by the artists and craftsmen of these ancient periods who produced objects of an artistic quality that could not be bettered in ancient times and has not yet been reached in modern ones."
(Excerpt) Read more at sciencedaily.com ...
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Fascinating stuff. Thanks for the flag. I am guessing that the reason these techniques have eluded modern scientists is that the craftsmen of those times applied substances that were potentially dangerous to their health. They took risks that today’s scientists know to avoid.
As a side note: The writer of this piece is sorely lacking in writing skills.
We live in a world of lost knowledge.
And, it happened a lot. :’)
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I seem to recall something about the first metalsmiths who sculpted with platinum metals (there are four, generally found together in nature) had to dope it with something poisonous (arsenic I think) to keep it malleable long enough to sculpt.
It’s a hoax.
OTOH, it’s still an interesting thing.
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Or, they died here after their craft malfunctioned or crashed.
Excellent. You, my FRiend, are a goldmine [of information]!
And I seem to recall that many of the alchemists succumbed to the effects of poisoning. Mercury, IIRC.
;’) Thanks 1010RD!
[snip] To alchemists, lead was the lowliest of metals - in a sense, it was where all metals started. In talk of base metals, which alchemy tried to turn to silver and gold, there was none so base as lead. The alchemists believed that lead slowly matured into other metals in the ground. But alchemy also offered lead a chance to shake off its grey and graceless image. It does not take much to draw splendid colours out of lead. The ancient technologists blanched the dull metal by placing lead strips in pots with vinegar, and shutting them away in a shed full of animal dung. The vinegar fumes and gas from fermenting dung conspired to corrode lead into lead white. Heat this gently, and it turns yellow: a form of lead oxide known as litharge or, in the Middle Ages, massicot. Heat it some more, and it goes bright red, as you form a different kind of oxide. Both of these substances were used by artists - red lead was, for a long time, their finest red, used for painting many a bright robe in the Middle Ages. It was the signature colour of Saint Jerome.
To the alchemists, those colour changes weren’t just a way to make pigments. They signified some more profound alteration taking place in the metal, bringing it close to the colour of gold. It’s no wonder, then, that their experiments often began with lead. They came no closer to making real gold, but they started to explore the processes of chemical transformation.
Lead, however, seems habituated to revealing its true and dirty colours. Exposed to air, it may go on taking up oxygen until it turns black. Red lead has become chocolate brown on paintings throughout the world, from Japan to India to Switzerland. In urban galleries there is another danger, as the sulphurous fumes of pollution react with red lead to from black lead sulphide. There seems to be no getting away from it: lead has a glum and melancholy heart. [/snip]
Very good explanation that even this dummy could understand. And so beautifully written. Thanks.
I bought my 12 YO son a "best of" Ancient Aliens CD. He loves that show. Now, whenever he asks me a question I can't answer, my pat reply is "Aliens".