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Ellen McCallie's Diary

Day 33: Melting Gold

I smell of smoke. I taste smoke in my mouth. We sat very comfortably for hours heating the gold and pounding it gently, all without noticing the smoke from the fire. Then, when removed from the immediate situation, the lingering effects of the fire hit my senses full force.

And the gold. I will probably dream in gold this evening.

Photo: Ellen pounding the goldThe day started off with gold as a brittle, impure substance. Luckily we started with only half of the gold nugget that Jonathan and I found in our treasure box. Kathy and I split the half into fourths and each pounded. We pounded the gold hard, fast and furiously only to find jagged edges, holes, and chunks of silver impurities. With a goal of gold leaf, this would not do. It quickly became clear as well that our tools were too bulky and crude. The surfaces of our hammers were nicked and pocked, as was the anvil on which we could beat the gold. What to do?!

Goals: Something had to be made of gold by the end of day 3. We currently had some gold to work. The rest of it had to be smelted with that which we collected ourselves. The furnace and its effectiveness were unknown. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, so we decided to start again, trading our banged-up bits of the treasure nugget for the other half of it. This time Kathy and I exhibited much patience. We built and maintained a manageable, but roaring, fire to continually heat the gold. We pounded gently, taking care to set the gold on as smooth a surface as possible and hit it with a clean, nearly smooth mallet. Slowly, slowly. By the end of today we had a slightly misshapen piece of gold thick enough to hold its own weight as pieces of jewelry, but thin enough to have produced a respectable size of gold with which to work.

Photo: Ellen and Kathy building a fireKathy made a good call, let's cut our losses and make something that has a good chance of succeeding — a pair of dangly earrings. Plus, we can each have one. We designed and cut them out to shape and will finish tomorrow with Maori and New Zealand symbols: koru, the fiddlehead of a fern, which indicates life.

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Photo: Ellen McCallie
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