Alchemy – Turning Copper to Gold
One of the most influential scientists of the 17th century was Isaac Newton. He introduced what became the basis of all modern physics with his three laws of motion, but what many people don’t know is that Isaac Newton was a mystic person and extremely interested in alchemy.
There have been lots of alchemists through the centuries and they had lots of complex rituals and symbols. At the time of his death, Isaac Newton had 169 books on the topic of alchemy in his personal library, and was believed to have considerably more books on this topic during his Cambridge years, though he may have sold them before moving to London in 1696. For its time, his was considered one of the finest alchemical libraries in the world.
Nicolas Flamel, was a notable, though mysterious figure, often associated with the discovery of the philosopher’s stone which gave immortal life. (Harry Potter actor here!) Flamel lived in Paris in the 14th and 15th centuries, and his life is one of the best documented in the history of medieval alchemy. He ran two shops as a scribe and married Perenelle in 1368. She brought the wealth of two previous husbands to the marriage. The French Catholic couple owned several properties and contributed financially to churches, sometimes by commissioning sculptures. Later in life, they were noted for their wealth and philanthropy. The recent Harry Potter films and books have revived the idea of “alchemy” and the stone. But where is the truth?
The most famous King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold.
This came to be called the golden touch, or the Midas touch. The Phrygian city Midaeum was presumably named after this Midas, and this is probably also the Midas that according to Pausanias founded Ancyra.
According to Aristotle, legend held that Midas died of starvation as a result of his “vain prayer” for the gold touch. The legends told about this Midas and his father Gordias, credited with founding the Phrygian capital city Gordium in the 2nd millennium BC, well before the Trojan War.
The Midas Monument, a Phrygian rock-cut tomb dedicated to Midas (700 BC). (Turkey – Anatalia)
The two pence coin was originally minted from bronze, but since 1992 it has been minted in copper-plated steel due to the increasing price of metal. By May 2006 the pre-1992 (97% copper) coins contained 3p worth of copper each. As of May 2006, about 2.55 billion such coins remained in circulation.
Alloys of various metals have been used in coins for some time to save on costs and create various coloured effects…..
Video / Links.
Transmutation – Example Method (not 100% sure on this one!)
RSC Method – this one works really well, but looks complex, so practice it before you do it with students!
This video, gives the general idea, but I am not 100% sure he has not cut a few bits out. I personally would say that I would always scrub the coin until spotless and leave in acid for a long time. The cleaner the better, any imperfections in the copper surface will yield a fail at the alloy process.