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The Dry Refining Process: Smelting of Silver Ores

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Chapter Summary

Smelting was a well-known metallurgical process by the time Spanish conquerors and colonists arrived to exploit the silver deposits of the New World. A description is provided of the two-step refining process used at the time to extract silver from argentiferous lead ores, which involved first smelting the ores then extracting silver from lead bars enriched with silver. German artisans initially brought their experience from the silver mines of MittelEuropa. The Spanish refiners working with argentiferous lead ores had no other refining option. The chapter focuses on San Luis Potosí in New Spain, where an active local service industry offered a varied menu that covered rentals of smelting haciendas, mines and workers, and even furnaces by the hour.



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    Silver by Fire, Silver by Mercury: A Chemical History of Silver Refining in New Spain and Mexico, 16th to 19th Centuries — Recommend this title to your library
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