If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Depletion gilding: Goldmaking techniques of the ancient Colombians

Depletion gilding (dorado por oxidación). The gold-making techniques of the ancient Colombians. © Trustees of the British Museum. Created by British Museum.

Want to join the conversation?

  • leaf blue style avatar for user j shi
    What herb did they use to mix with the water and salt?
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • hopper jumping style avatar for user Coleman M. Vaughn: Hot Topic Studios
      Okay so I looked this up because I thought this was an interesting question what I found was that the "Indians" used a herb called Oxalis Pubescens that contains oxalic acid. This is a very old and not commonly used way of depletion gilding the most common and somewhat modern ways are using all salt and packing the copper/silver/gold alloy (I put silver in because this was also used but the Colombians used copper and gold) in the salt, another very common but modern way is to use acids but modern acids like nitric acid or hydrochloric acid. With all of these techniques you mix them with water. I hope this helped.
      (6 votes)
  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user Mike Gutfeldt
    At it says "the metal smiths ground an herb to obtain an acid, which they mixed with boiling water and salt." Did they achieve this intricate procedure through much trial and error?
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript