Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for writers/artists using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a character who loses her forearm. To up the cool factor (and because this once happened in a dream of mine), I'd like for her to dip her stump in gold.

Would this actually result in gold covering her skin, or would this just burn her skin/flesh and do nothing otherwise?

I'd like a relatively realistic answer, but magic does exist in-universe, and she is a magic user.

share|improve this question
It sounds like your main question is actually "can an amputation be gilded with molten metal?" "Cauterization" basically is just burning flesh. – sumelic Mar 15 at 15:21
Yes, that definitely makes more sense - I'll update the title to reflect this! – jackwise Mar 15 at 15:24
This is a pretty interesting question and I'd like to see some of the answers. – fi12 Mar 15 at 15:34
Dipping a large open wound like a severed arm in liquid gold sounds unimaginably painful. There's a chance the character would die of shock. – evilscary Mar 16 at 11:54
@evilscary Oh absolutely, if we were talking about an average Joe there'd be no question. But, the wound is of a magical nature + she's the protagonist so I'm willing to pretend that death is not a possibility for this situation ;) – jackwise Mar 16 at 13:39
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Combining the answers of @Lacklub and @user16295 I would suggest the following...

Your character uses tar to cauterize the wound. This works and saves their life. However walking about with tar covering your arm, or that commonly not-quite-appealing skin-patching that happens, is not very cool. Gold would be better, coolness factor goes up a lot. But as has been concluded that would do very bad things to the stump.

So combine the two solutions. Have them make a mold of the stump when covered in tar and from that fashion a gold cap for the stump. They may then use tar as a "glue" to keep the gold cap attached to the stump.

share|improve this answer
This seems reasonable, however I'm skeptical as to whether the gold would actually stick to the tar. – jackwise Mar 15 at 16:12
Then find some other adhesive, like pitch or just plain glue, or make the inside of the gold cap rugged/jagged in some way so that the tar - once it solidifies - grips to the cap. You can make up pretty much anything you want here. Tar is notoriously sticky though (played at for laughs in The Last Action Hero) so I think you will have no problems squeezing that past the disbelief filter of your intended audience. :) – Michael Karnerfors Mar 15 at 16:21
Perhaps just some covering of leather, which gets covered in a gold cap for aesthetic purposes. – Dronz Mar 15 at 22:29
Accepting this answer bc it helped the most in helping me to arrive at my own in-universe solution :) – jackwise Mar 21 at 15:40
Thank you @jackwise. :) Where will the final story be published? – Michael Karnerfors Mar 21 at 15:43

I assume you're imagining liquid gold.

Yes, gold can cauterize a wound. The only requirement to cauterize is heat. However, there would be problems.

  1. It shouldn't be a lot of gold. If there was, then it could melt away more flesh / bone than you want. Gold melts at about 1000 degrees C, and metals have a high thermal conductivity.

  2. Gold won't bond to skin. In this process, the surface layer of everything is being killed (this isn't necessary when cauterizing to clot blood, but would happen with liquid gold). Even if the gold solidified on the surface, it would eventually be shed because the top layer of skin will fall off.

You actually lucked out on toxicity. Pure gold is non-toxic and not very reactive.

share|improve this answer
Aw, I was hoping it'd bond to skin! What a downer. – jackwise Mar 15 at 15:31
@jackwise You might have some success with magic by just making the gold liquid at a lower temperature. Then you can drill into the bone and have it cool to physically secure it. – Lacklub Mar 15 at 15:42

I think the only way you would get gold to bond to the skin would be to make ink with a high content of gold dust and tattoo the gold into the skin.

Covering a stump with a solid, permanent, cover would (at best) probably result in infected pressure sores and end up requiring amputation.

share|improve this answer

Try silver rather than gold.

Gold is toxic, silver is naturally antibiotic.

Melts a little cooler, only a scorching 961.78 °C. It probably still won't bond to skin though so it'll still need significant added magic.

(For comparison, tar which was normally used to seal such wounds, melts at about 55-60°C)

share|improve this answer
Doesn't excessive exposure to silver turn your skin blue? – Thomas Jacobs Mar 15 at 15:49
This conflicts with what @Lacklub says about gold's toxicity - can you provide a source so I can confirm one way or the other? – jackwise Mar 15 at 15:51
@jackwise, if only it were so simple:, both are true. – Separatrix Mar 15 at 15:55
So from your link pure gold is non-toxic and save to eat. It's also pretty stable and wouldn't turn into some toxic easily. – AndyD273 Mar 15 at 16:44
From what I've read, gold itself is non-toxic. However, some proteins that come in contact with gold can be altered (their folding changed). Your body could detect those different proteins as pathogens and attack them. – Jim2B Mar 15 at 16:49

How did she lose her arm? If it was a magical blade that was cursed to eat her flesh/bone, it could corrode/create holes in her bone while eating back the flesh. This would provide a way for the gold to hold onto her bone/arm. Otherwise the gold would just fall off as the damaged skin was shed. Picture dipping an unblemished stick in glue, it would just pull off when dried. But drill a few holes into the stick and the glue then becomes effectively a part of the stick, the only way to remove it is to break the stick.

share|improve this answer

I could give you a solution, based on a documental. In this case an elephant's fang was cut, and also some minor fractures in it. So the keeper ordered somebody to make a metal inlay to be attached to the remaining fang and this stopped the elephant's pain. As when you go to the dentist and taps on a tooth...

So, keeping that in mind, if you take gold or silver (after you decided which would be less toxic) and attach it to the very bone (it could be larger than the flesh) and make an arm, and provide with some means to move as a normal arm (such as hinges). It would reassemble the Star Wars movies, or I-Robot, the one with Will Smith(who has a metal arm).

share|improve this answer
Would you mind linking to your resources, as you mentioned you had some. We prefer citations and references where possible. I also found some minor errors in grammar and spelling, and will edit. Thanks. – DJMethaneMan Mar 16 at 17:53

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.