The Ten Books on Architecture, 7.8.4

Vitruvius  Parallel editions

‹‹‹ Vitr. 7.8.3 | Table of Contents | Vitr. 7.9.1 ›››

Gwilt translation

4Quicksilver is used for many purposes; without it, neither silver nor brass can be properly gilt. When gold is embroidered on a garment which is worn out and no longer fit for use, the cloth is burnt over the fire in earthen pots; the ashes are thrown into water, and quicksilver added to them: this collects all the particles of gold, and unites with them. The water is then poured off, and the residuum placed in a cloth: which, when squeezed with the hands, suffers the liquid quicksilver to pass through the pores of the cloth, but retains the gold in a mass within it.

Morgan translation

4Quicksilver is a useful thing for many purposes. For instance, neither silver nor copper can be gilded properly without it. And when gold has been woven into a garment, and the garment becomes worn out with age so that it is no longer respectable to use, the pieces of cloth are put into earthen pots, and burned up over a fire. The ashes are then thrown into water and quicksilver added thereto. This attracts all the bits of gold, and makes them combine with itself. The water is then poured off, and the rest emptied into a cloth and squeezed in the hands, whereupon the quicksilver, being a liquid, escapes through the loose texture of the cloth, but the gold, which has been brought together by the squeezing, is found inside in a pure state.