We also know mercury gilding as Fire Gilding. this ancient method first appeared in 4th century B.C. in China. As the name implies, involved mixing pure gold with liquid mercury to form a paste-like amalgam. Then we brush This gold-mercury amalgam onto the surface of a silver, copper, brass, or bronze object. When the object is then heated in an oven or over a fire, the mercury evaporates and leaves behind a thin coating of gold.
Once the item had been covered with the amalgam, we heated it in a furnace until the mercury was vaporized. Because mercury's boiling point is so low (674°F or 357°C), the mercury is driven off by the heat, leaving the gold from the amalgam strongly bonded to the surface of the object. As a final step, the freshly gilt item was burnished or polished using an agate tool. This gave a bright, high purity gold finish that was both beautiful and durable.
We have known fire gilding since ancient times. The ancient Greek, Roman, Persian and Chinese all used mercury gilding extensively for jewelry, statues. However, mercury gilding is rarely performed today because of its toxicity: when mercury evaporates during the heating process, harmful vapors are released. In fact, this technique is illegal in many countries.
There was an alternative gilding method-Gold foil. Sheets of gold leaf were carefully (gold leaf gilding was very thin )adhered to a clean metal surface and then burnished, permanently bonding the gold leaf to the metal.
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