This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
That the amalgam may easily take hold of bronze objects and remain there, it is customary to cover the perfectly cleansed and shining article with a thin coat of mercury, which is usually accomplished by dipping it into a so-called quick-water bath.
In the form of minute globules the mercury immediately separates itself from the solution and clings to the bronze object, which thereupon presents the appearance of being plated with silver. After it has been well rinsed in clean water, the amalgam may be evenly and without difficulty applied with the scratch brush.
This quick-water (in reality a solution of mercurous nitrate), is made in the simplest manner by taking 10 parts of mercury and pouring over it 11 parts of nitric acid of a specific gravity equal to 1.33; now let it stand until every part of the mercury is dissolved; then, while stirring vigorously, add 540 parts of water. This solution must be kept in closed flasks or bottles to prevent impurities, such as dust, etc., from falling into it.
The preparatory work on the object to be gilded consists mainly in cleansing it from every trace of oxidation. First, it must be well annealed by placing it in a bed of glowing coal, care being exercised that the heating be uniform. When cooled, this piece is plunged into a highly diluted sulphuric-acid bath in order to dissolve in a measure the oxide. Next it is dipped in a 36° nitric-acid bath, of a specific gravity equal to 1.33, and brushed off with a long brush; it is now dipped into nitric acid into which a little lampblack and table salt have been thrown. It is now ready for washing in clean water and drying in unsoiled sawdust. It is of the greatest importance that the surface to be gilded should appear of a pale yellow tint all over. If it be too smooth the gold will not take hold easily, and if it be too dull it will require too much gold to cover it.