Ancient proceedings from Ammonium chloride and Saltpeter to obtain Aqua Regia through Hydrochloric Acid and Nitric Acid 3:1 often leads to Fulminating Gold.
This real explosive, which caused considerable injuries and death among alchemists, could unexpectedly be just over the corner.
Labors of Hercules were so exhausting ( and still are today) that Aqua Regia had the air of being too good to be a true shortcut to “open” or dissolve crude matter metallic gold into Mercurius/Secret Fire. Aqua Regia in latin means the water of the king. Indeed Aqua is an allegory for universal solvent and king for metallic gold. Aqua Regia cannot be employed in Alchemy as the legendary Alkahest. The Spit of the Moon. The chemical solution of metallic gold in Aqua Regia does not bring to the exterior what is hidden inside the gold. Here I don’t mean splitting the Au2 molecule in mono-atomic Au, for I would rather be interested in the gold electronic cloud since this seems full of Secret Fire, which is our matter and our cooking tool. Subject, Subjectum Artis, as well as function. I don’t mean to be tedious, but only Spirit/Mercurius, that’s to say, a more handy Secret Fire coming out of laboratory work, can be our solvent. Since very few alchemists did know about Secret Fire, many tried to get to seeds of matter through matter’s ultimate units. Although metallic gold finely dividing takes its part in salts volatilization to get Alkahest/Universal Solvent.
In all ages, the obsession with universal solvent was proportionate to the obsession with getting it fast and easy. And Aqua Regia, the faster way to dissolve metallic gold, composed by legendary Sal Ammoniacum and Saltpeter, appeared to a great number of researchers as the ultimate secret shrouded in mystery and finally unveiled. I read on The Goldmakers by K. K. Doberer that an eighteenth-century alchemist was hired by a countess of Wurttemberg ( I guess I remember right, for I have lost the book) to have a try with Aqua Regia. On a summer afternoon, during their garden reading, the countess and her nephew could witness the bursting apart of the poor alchemist and the wooden tower he was in. In a later letter, the nephew described the amazing laboratory housing taking off, apparently not being so concerned about the man’s fate.
In 2005, at phantomplay.com (now expired), I found this exhaustive presentation of Aqua Regia preparation from Ammonium chloride and Saltpeter ( Potassium Nitrate) ending to fulminating gold, which I thought to post here, not before having communicated to them my appreciation as well as special thanks. Well done, phantom!
5 grams of dry Ammonium Chloride and 5 grams of dry Potassium Nitrate were ground together in a dry mortar with a pestle. This mixture was placed into a test tube and was set up for dry distillation.
Heating the Ammonium Chloride and Potassium Nitrate mixture first causes some of the Ammonium Chloride to sublime. This is then followed by a formation of a yellow substance which distills from the mixture.
The distilled vapor is condensed in another test tube in a beaker of crushed ice. The vapor appears to be Nitric Acid with no indication of Chlorine. Some sublimated Ammonium Chloride or Ammonium Salt appears in the glass connection tube and on the wall of the test tube.
Continued heating of the test tube containing the salt mixture caused the test tube to melt and form a blow hole in the heated area. The vapors are a mixture of Ammonium Chloride and Nitric Acid. Further experiments were done with Pyrex test tubes.
The distillate from the condensation test tube was placed in an evaporation dish. It is a light yellow fuming liquid that appears to be Nitric Acid. There does not appear to be any odor of free Chlorine gas.
Some flakes of pure Gold were placed in the fuming acid. The Gold totally dissolved within ten minutes in the acid, forming a deeper yellow solution of Gold Chloride.