Thus, while cupellation still furnishes the only means for the final separation of lead and silver, it has become an auxiliary process to the two methods of concentration given.
In large works the silver-lead alloy is removed when it contains 60-80 silver, and the cupellation of the rich bullion from several concentration furnaces is finished in a second furnace.
In small works the cupellation is finished in one furnace, and the resulting low-grade silver fined in a plumbago crucible, either by overheating in the presence of air, or by the addition of silver sulphate to the melted silver, when air or sulphur trioxide and oxygen oxidize the impurities.
The plus-silver is due to the fact that in assaying the base bullion by cupellation, the silver lost by volatilization and cupel-absorption is neglected.
Other metals which find application in the metallurgy of gold by virtue of their property of extracting the gold as an alloy are lead, which combines very readily when molten, and which can afterwards be separated by cupellation, and copper, which is separated from the gold by solution in acids or by electrolysis; molten lead also extracts gold from the copper-gold alloys.
Cupellation brings up the gold to about 900 fine.
If the button is too large for cupellation, or if it is hard, it may be scorified either alone or mixed with test lead before cupellation.
Under the most favourable conditions there is a slight loss of gold and silver in the fusion, the scorification and the cupellation, both by absorption in the slag and by actual volatilization and absorption in the cupel.
The process of cupellation is briefly as follows: - The gold alloy is fused with a quantity of lead, and a little silver if silver is already present.