This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
In the silvering of mirrors by the Petit-jean method, which has almost universally replaced tinning, the property of silver in readily amalgamating is taken advantage of, by substituting the glass after silvering to the action of a dilute solution of double cyanide of mercury and potassium in such a manner as to form an amalgam of white and brilliant silver adhering strongly to the glass. To facilitate the operation and utilize all the silver, while economizing the double cyanide, M. Lenoir has recommended the following: Sprinkle the glass at the time when it is covered with the mercurial solution with very fine zinc powder, which precipitates the quicksilver and regulates the amalgamation.
The metallurgy of silver also takes advantage of the property of this
metal in combining cold with quicksilver; this for the treatment of poor silver ores.
In the Saxon or Freiburg process for treating silver ores, recourse is had to quicksilver in the case of amalgam in amalgamating casks, in which the ore, after grinding, is shaken with disks of iron, and with mercury and water. The amalgam, collected and filtered under strong pressure, contains from 30 to 33 per cent of silver. It is distilled either in cylindrical retorts of cast iron, furnished with an exit tube immersed in the water for condensing the mercurial vapors, or on plates of iron, arranged over each other along a vertical iron stem, supported by a tripod at the bottom of a tank filled with water, and covered with an iron receiver, which is itself surrounded with ignited charcoal. It should be remarked that the last portions of quicksilver in a silver amalgam submitted to distillation are voiatilized only under the action of a high and prolonged temperature.