Source: Abu'l-Fazl 'Allami, A'IN-I AKBARI (3 vols.). Vol. 1 trans. H. Blochmann, 1927. Vol. 1, pp. 21-26. Ed. *ZDJ*

Book 1, Chapter 7: The Manner of Refining Gold

When the above-mentioned plates have been stamped, the owner of the gold, for the weight of every 100 jalali gold muhrs, must furnish four sets of saltpetre, and four sers of brickdust of raw bricks. The plates, after having been washed in clean water, are stratified with the above mixture (of the saltpetre and brickdust), and put one above the other, the whole being covered with cow dung, which in Hindi is called upla. It is the dry dung of the Wild-cow. Then they set fire to it, and let it gently burn, till the dung is reduced to ashes, when they leave it to cool; then, these ashes being removed from the sides, are preserved. They are called in Persian khak-i khalis, and in Hindi saloni. By a process to be mentioned hereafter, they recover silver from it. The plates, and the ashes below them, are left as they are. This process of setting fire to the dung, and removing the ashes at the sides, is twice repeated. When three fires have been applied, they call the plates sita'i. They are then again washed in clean water, and stratified three times with the above mixture, the ashes of the sides being removed.

This operation must be repeated till six mixtures and eighteen fires have been applied, when the plates are again washed. Then the assay master breaks one of them; and if there comes out a soft and mild sound, it is a sign of its being sufficiently pure; but if the sound is harsh, the plates must undergo three more fires. Then from each of the plates one masha is taken away, of which aggregate a plate is made. This is dried on the touchstone; if it is not sufficiently fine, the gold has again to pass through one or two fires. In most cases, however, the desired effect is obtained by three or four fires.

The following method of assaying is also used. They take two tolas of pure gold, and two tolas of the gold which passed through the fire, and make twenty plates of each, of equal weight. They then spread the above mixture, apply the fire, wash them, and weigh them with an exact balance. If both kinds are found to be equal in weight, it is a proof of pureness.

10.    The Melter of the refined metal. He melts the refined plates of gold, and casts them, as described above, into ingots. His fee for 100 gold muhrs is three dams.

11.    The Zarrab. He cuts off the gold, silver and copper ingots, as exactly as he can, round pieces of the size of coined money. His fees are, for 100 gold muhrs, 21 dams, 1.25 jetals;   for the weight of 1000 rupees, 53 dams, 8.75 jetals, if he cuts rupees; and 28 dams in addition, if he cuts the same weight of silver into quarter rupees. For 1000 copper dams his fee is 20 dams; for the same weight of half and quarter dams, 25 dams; and for half-quarter dams, which are called damris, 69 dams.

In Iran and Turan they cannot cut these pieces without a proper anvil; but Hindustani workmen cut them without such an instrument, so exactly, that there is not the difference of a single hair, which is remarkable enough.

12.    The Engraver. He engraves the dies of the coins on steel, and such-like metals. Coins are then stamped with these dies. At this day, Mawlana 'Ali Ahmad of Delhi, who has not his equal in any country, cuts different kinds of letters in steel, in such a manner as to equal the copyslips of the most skilful caligraphers. He holds the rank of a yuzbashi; and two of his men serve in the mint. Both have a monthly salary of 600 dams.

13.    The Sikkachi. He places the round pieces of metal between two dies; and by the strength of the hammerer (putk-chi) both sides are stamped. His fees are for 100 gold muhrs, 1.4 dams; for 1000 rupees, 5 dams, 9.5 jetals; and for the weight of 1000 rupees of small silver pieces, 1 dam, 3 jetals in addition; for 1000 copper dams; 3 dams; for 2000 half -dams, and 4000 quarter-dams, 3 dams, 18.75 jetals; and for 8000 half-quarter dams, 10.5 dams. Out of these fees the sikkachi has to give one-sixth to the hammerer, for whom there is no separate allowance.

14.   The Sabbak makes the refined silver into round plates. For every 1000 rupees' weight, he receives 54 dams.

The discovery of an alloy in silver: Silver may be alloyed with lead, tin and copper. In Iran and Turan, they also call the highest degree of fineness of silver dahdahi; in Hindustan, the sayrafis use for it the term list bist biswa. According to the quantity of the alloy, it descends in degree; but it is not made less than five, and no one would care for silver baser than ten degrees. Practical men can discover from the colour of the compound, which of the alloys is prevailing, whilst by filing and boring it, the quality of the inside is ascertained. They also try it by beating it when hot, and then throwing it into water, when blackness denotes lead, redness copper, a white greyish colour tin, and whiteness a large proportion of silver.


They dig a hole, and having sprinkled into it a small quantity of wild cow dung, they fill it with the ashes of mughilan wood; then they moisten it, and work it up into the shape of a dish; into this they put the adulterated silver, together with a proportionate quantity of lead. First, they put a fourth part of the lead on the top of the silver, and having surrounded the whole with coals, blow the fire with a pair of bellows, till the metals are melted, which operation is generally repeated four times. The proofs of the metal being pure are a lightning-like brightness, and its beginning to harden at the sides. As soon as it is hardened in the middle, they sprinkle it with water, when flames resembling in shape the horns of wild goats, issue from it. It then forms itself into a disc, and is perfectly refined. If this disc be melted again, half a surkh in every tola will burn away, i.e. , 6 mashas and 2 surkhs in 100 tolas. The ashes of the disc, which are mixed with silver and lead, form a kind of litharge, called in Hindi kharal, and in Persian kuhna; the use of which will be hereafter explained. Before this refined silver is given over to the Zarrab, 5 mashas and 5 surkhs are taken away for the Imperial exchequer out of every hundred tolas of it; after which the assay master marks the mass with the usual stamp, that it may not be altered or exchanged.

In former times silver also was assayed by the banwari system; now it is calculated as follows:—if by refining 100 tolas, of shahi silver, which is current in Iraq and Khurasan, and of the lari and misqali, which are current in Turan, there are lost three tolas and one surkh; and of the same quantity of the European and Turkish narjil, and the mahmudi and muzaffari of Gujrat and Malwa, 13 tolas and 6.5 mashas are lost, they become then of Imperial standard.

15.    The Qurs-kub, having heated the refined silver, hammers it till it has lost all smell of the lead. His fee for the weight of 1000 rupees, is 4.5 dams.

16.    The Chashnigir examines the refined gold and silver, and fixes its purity as follows:—Having made two tolas of the refined gold into eight plates, he applies layers of the mixture as above described, and sets fire to it, keeping out, however, all draught; he then washes the plates, and melts them.   If they have not lost anything by this process, the gold is pure. The assay-master then tries it upon the touchstone, to satisfy himself and others. For assaying that quantity, he gets 1.4 dams. In the case of silver, he takes one tola with a like quantity of lead, which he puts together into a bone crucible, and keeps it on the fire till the lead is all burnt. Having then sprinkled the silver with water, he hammers it till it has lost all smell of the lead; and having melted it in a new crucible, he weighs it; and if it has lost in weight three birinj(rice grains), it is sufficiently pure; otherwise he melts it again, till it comes to that degree. For assaying that quantity, his fee is 3 dams, 4.5 jetals.

17.    The Niyariya collects the khak-i khalis and washes it, taking two sers at the time: whatever gold there may be amongst it will settle, from its weight, to the bottom. The khak, when thus washed, is called in Hindi kukrah, and still contains some gold, for the recovery of which, directions shall hereafter be given. The above-mentioned adulterated sediment is rubbed together with quicksilver, at the rate of six mashas quicksilver per ser. The quicksilver from its predilective affinity, draws the gold to itself, and forms an amalgam which is kept over the fire in a retort, till the gold is separated from the quicksilver.

For extracting the gold from this quantity of khak, the Niyariya receives 20 dams, 2 jetals.

The process of Kukrah

They mix with the kukrah an equal quantity of punhar, and form a paste of rasi (aqua fortis) and cow dung. They then pound the first composition, and mixing it with the paste, work it up into balls of two sers weight, which they dry on a cloth.

Punhar is obtained as follows:—
They make a hole in the earth, and fill it with the ashes of Babul-wood, at the rate of six fingers' height of ashes for every maund of lead. The lead itself is put at the bottom of the hole, which has been smoothed; then they cover it with charcoals, and melt the lead. After that, having removed the coals, they place over it two plates of clay, fixed by means of thorns, and close up the bellows hole, but not the vent. This they keep covered with bricks, till the ashes have thoroughly soaked up the lead. The bricks they frequently remove to learn the state of the lead. For the above-mentioned quantity of lead, there are 4 mashas of silver mixed up with the ashes. These ashes they cool in water, when they are called punhar. Out of every man of lead two sers are burnt; but the mass is increased by four sers of ashes, so that the weight of the whole mass will be one man and two sers.

Rasi is a kind of acid, made of ashkhar and saltpetre.

Having thus explained what punhar and rasi are, I return to the description of the process of Kukrah. They make an oven-like vessel, narrow at both ends, and wide in the middle, one and a half yards in height, with a hole at the bottom. Then having filled the vessel with coals within four fingers of the top, they place it over a pit dug in the earth, and blow the fire with two bellows. After that, the aforementioned balls being broken into pieces, they throw them into the fire and melt them, when the gold, silver, copper and lead fall through the hole in the bottom of the vessel into the pit below. Whatever remains in the vessel, is softened and washed, and the lead separated from it. They likewise collect the ashes, from whence also by a certain process profit may be derived. The metal is then taken out of the pit, and melted according to the punhar system. The lead will mix with the ashes, from which thirty sers will be recovered, and ten sers will be burnt. The gold, silver and copper remain together in a mass, and this they call bugrawati, or according to some, gubrawati.

The process of Bugrawati.

They make a hole, and fill it with the ashes of babul-wood, half a ser for every 100 tolas of bugrawati. These ashes they then make up in form of a dish, and mix them up with the bugrawati, adding one tola of copper, and twenty-five tolas of lead. They now fill the dish with coals, and cover it with bricks. When the whole has melted, they remove the coals and the bricks, and make a fire of babul-wood, till the lead and copper unite with the ashes, leaving the gold and silver together. These ashes are also called kharal, and the lead and copper can be recovered from them by a process which will be hereafter explained.

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