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Tumbaga

What Is Tumbaga

The name Tumbaga in Spanish refers to a gold and copper alloy that was predominantly used in pre-Columbian (before 1492) Mesoamerica and South America. The chemical composition of the alloy differs in different objects of use and it is known for its hardness [1]. If the copper content is low, it doesn’t tarnish much [7]. It can be hammered, cast, annealed, plated, polished, inlaid, embossed and engraved [8].

Tumbaga

Composition [5]

The constitution of the generic alloy is as given below.

Copper 95%
Gold 95%
Silver 5%-10%
Tumbaga Jewelry

Properties and Characteristics of Tumbaga

Physical Properties

Color/appearance Golden with a strong reddish tinge [1, 3]
Luster Metallic [1]
Melting point 864.18 °C, 1587.52 °F [2]
State of matter at room temperature (normal phase) Solid [1]
Hardness 30-80 Brinell (estimated) [8]
Malleability Yes [1]
Tumbaga Alloy

Uses

  1. Ancient civilizations extensively used it in decorative arts and making jewelry [4].
  2. As a catalyst in nanotechnology in modern times [4].
Tumbaga Pendant

Interesting Facts

  • The low melting point of the alloy favored its use with early metal workers. In fact, it was made to resemble gold by treating its surface with an acid solution to dissolve the copper and then hammering and polishing it for joining the gold [6].

References:

  1. Tumbaga – Revolvy.com
  2. Tumbaga – Atlantipedia.ie
  3. Confounding the Conquistadors: Tumbaga’s Spurious Luster – Penn.museum
  4. Gold–Copper Nano-Alloy, “Tumbaga”, in the Era of Nano: Phase Diagram and Segregation – Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  5. Tumbaga – Langantiques.com
  6. Tumbaga Gold and Copper alloy – Matweb.com
  7. Metalsmithing: If there were a book of 268,000 words written on plates of brass or gold, how much would it weigh? – Quora.com
  8. The Improvement Era – Shields-research.org

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