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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 52, December 24, 2006, Article 11

AQUA REGIA: THE WATER OF KINGS

Regarding last week's item about two Nobel Prize medals being
dissolved in a solution of aqua regia, Gar Travis writes: "Aqua
Regia is a mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid. It can
dissolve gold, which single acids alone cannot do."
Aqua Regia

Another subscriber writes: "It struck me that most people(other than
chemists) probably don't know much if anything about aqua regia, so
I thought I would volunteer the following.  I was in the precious
metals purchasing business during the period when metals prices were
at record levels in the early 1980's.  My memory of that time is fading,
and the following may not be 100% accurate, but this is what I recall
of aqua regia:

"Aqua regia is a combination of equal parts of sulfuric and nitric
acids.  It is commonly used in gold buying to determine if an item
meets the standard of 18K (.750 Fine) or higher fineness.  Pure nitric
acid can be used to test for 14K (.583 Fine) or higher fineness, and
is also somewhat useful in testing for 10K(.417 Fine).

"I recall hearing an interesting story about the derivation of the
name of this substance.  Aqua regia literally translated is 'water of
Kings'.  Supposedly, only a King would be able to drink aqua regia
without consequence.  Lesser individuals would experience considerable
pain soon after imbibing."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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