[Tidbits] How to make Gold out of Lead

How to make Gold out of Lead.

Howdy folks. Step right up. You. Yeah. you there. Come a little
closer. You don’t want to miss any of this do you? HEY! Mister.
Don’t walk away. What if…just what if…I can turn lead into
gold. Think of the opportunities, man? You can quit your job. You
can get out of the rat race.

Let’s go back to fifteenth century Europe. Extortion was at its
peak. Theft of gold was rampant. Gold reserves, including coins
and statues in churches and the stuff being worked into jewelry,
was at an all time low. It is estimated that at that time the
continent had about one billion dollars worth of gold…and it
was shrinking fast. America had not yet been discovered. Sutter’s
mill had yet to find its place in history. There was, alas, a
gold shortage. What to do…what to do?

Eureka…said one. Eureka…said another. The plan was simple.
Get hold of an alchemist or two…and let them make gold.
Now…to go off on a slight tangent here, before you all go
pish-poshing this article and start thinking to yourselves: If he
thinks I’m going to waste my time reading this junk, he’d better
think again. Before you all start saying that, let me tell you
this. In the alchemists quest for making gold, two great
inventions were born. One was porcelain…and the other was
gunpowder. That’s right folks…porcelain and gunpowder were side
products that were born of the alchemist’s desire to make gold
out of base metal.

In the post-Alexandrian era, Egyptian priests had more than just
a little success…at least financially. They were able to color
cheap metals with quicksilver and arsenic, and exchanged statues
made of this material for the real statues of gold in the
temples. They made out like bandits. If no one scratched the
statue, they’d never know it wasn’t gold. And who in their right
mind is going to go into a temple and start scratching the statue
of a god. Not me, that’s for sure. Of course, the real statues
were melted down and somebody’s bank account grew quite large.

Time passed…and the metallurgical knowledge of the Egyptians
was passed on to the Arabs. Europe was ensconced in mysticism.
Jafar, an Arab physician, wrote the quintessential text book on
how to make gold. I don’t know how well Jafar made out. But this
was the beginning of alchemism.

In dark and dank cellars surrounded by chemicals and noxious
fumes, gold makers toiled day and night to find the secret to the
philosophers stone…that little piece of matter which, when
mixed with base metal, would turn it into gold.

Rumors of successes began to seep into the populace. Said
Raymond Lully, after a victorious bout with the elements: If the
entire ocean were made of quicksilver, I could turn it into gold.
Hey, Ray. Care to step over here and whisper sweet somethings in
my ear?

The quest gathered speed. Hordes of alchemists strutted through
Europe. And if they couldn’t make gold, at least not right off
the bat my friends, they never-the-less found no shortage of
greedy sponsors willing to help finance a venture that might,
that just might, yield inordinate wealth. And the most gullible
sponsors?..kings and princes…cuz they never had enough of the
stuff. You see your highness, give me twenty thousand florins
every month, for a year let’s say, and at the end of that term, I
promise, I promise, to make you gold out of offal. Or at least
out of lead. And kingy and princey dug deep into the public
pocket. And probably taxed the populace for their investment.

Maximilan I invested. Margrave Johann of Brandenburg invested.
Emperor Rudolph II, invested. Alchemists were being made into
barons by way of advance payment.

But wait…here’s the kicker folks. The year is 1666. The
personal physician to the Prince of Orange receives a visitor.
The visitor brings forth three nuggets of material and says to
the doctor, yo doc, this stuff will turn anything you have into
gold. Ol’ doc begs the stranger for a piece of the stuff, and the
stranger says okay. Here’s enough to make a half an ounce of gold
out of lead. And the stranger leaves without telling doc how to
do it. Doc figures, oh what the heck, and he melts some lead and
throws the material into the molten metal, and poof, it becomes
gold. By golly, the physician to the Prince of Orange spreads the
word. I did it. You hear me? I did it. Here’s the proof. They
came from all over the world to see this miracle. Could he do it
again, they asked. Nay, he said. For the stranger only left me
with a small piece and disappeared.

Can we find him, they all cried. Where is he, they said. What
was his name, they pleaded. And to this last query…and now
we’re delving into the area of rumor folks…but to this last
query it seems the good doctor muttered something to the effect
of…Tyler Adamus. Can you believe it?

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.

Take care,
Benjamin Mark

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