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While obviously you can't really transmute something like Lead into Gold (as far as I know), is there any real-life mineral or element that could be used to artificially create Gold from whatever its composite elements are? If so, what kinds of processes would you have to run the ingredients through to make Gold?

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closed as off-topic by Mołot, Alex2006, Ender Look, elemtilas, Vincent Jan 25 at 15:10

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – Mołot, Alex2006, Ender Look, elemtilas, Vincent
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Related: Is it possible to obtain gold through nuclear decay? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jan 25 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ As background for an already-given answer, gold is an element. This means that it has no composite elements, chemically speaking. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Jan 25 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ Oh... Thanks, I actually didn't know that? I somehow never got put in a chemistry class in highschool, so I might have some reading to do on the subject XD $\endgroup$ – BonnetBee Jan 25 at 0:52
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    $\begingroup$ To be fair, this technically isn't a worldbuilding question. Compare it to this question where the "technology" of transmutation is being applied in a worldbuilding context. For future reference, that's the kind of question we prefer to see posted: one where there is a defined and specific worldbuilding application. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 25 at 3:12
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    $\begingroup$ Google changing lead to gold in particle accelerators. It was done. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 25 at 7:34
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Changing Element A into Element B requires changing the number of protons in each atom of Element A. There is NO chemical process that can affect the number of protons in any atom.

Chemical processes can be used to concentrate or dilute gold atoms mixed among others. Chemical processes can bond or separate gold atoms locked in compounds. But no chemical process can change another element into gold.

...assuming your alchemist is honest, of course. Any charlatan worthy of the name can whip up a convincing transmutation swindle.

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    $\begingroup$ Ah! So maybe "Transmutation", in this setting, is really just a matter of Sifting Out Gold That's Already There? $\endgroup$ – BonnetBee Jan 25 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ Which is more commonly called "smelting and refining". 911metallurgist.com/blog/gold-smelting-refining-process $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Jan 25 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ @BonnetBee Does magic exist in the setting? If so, perhaps nuclear transmutation is possible through the application of magic? $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Jan 25 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ @ArkensteinXII - he's got the reality-check tag in place, so... probably not? $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Jan 25 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ This is the correct answer. To make a point: we can manipulate molecules by moving elements in and out of molecular configurations - but we cannot manipulate elements other than destructively. We can take them apart (via e.g. nuclear explosions or particle accelerators), but we don't know how to put them back together again... yet.... perhaps someday there will be technomages. And then gold will be worthless. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 25 at 3:09
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While it is impossible to transmute any element into another by chemical means, it is entirely possible to do it via nuclear means.

In fact, Glenn T. Seaborg in 1980 was able to transmute several thousand atoms of bismuth into gold, however at a net loss economically speaking (the cost of equipment, energy, and bismuth was greater than the value of the gold.)

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    $\begingroup$ "At a net loss", I rather expect, is a major understatement. Gold's highest value in 1980 was $850/ounce, or ~$28/gram. Assuming ten thousand atoms, the value of the created gold would be 3.3 * 10^-18g * $28/g or approximately a hundred trillionth of a cent. Also, the majority of the transmuted gold was radioactive and would have decayed over the course of the next year. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Jan 25 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ You get better results when you expose Hg 196 to a high neutron flux. It would create Hg 197, and EC into Au 197, which is stable. But again, would be ridiculously expensive to create a sufficient quantity of it. Especially since Hg196 represents 0.15% of naturally occurring mercury $\endgroup$ – sonvar Jan 25 at 3:53
  • $\begingroup$ Assuming the existence of nanobots - robots so tiny, they can manipulate atoms with a good degree of precision, would it be possible to have them re-arrange protons and neutrons to literally make any atom we want? $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 25 at 6:36
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    $\begingroup$ nanobots, no, protons are much smaller than atoms. $\endgroup$ – Jasen Jan 25 at 8:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I guess that my core question (in retrospect) seems to have been mangled a bit. I blame the lack of coffee. My main point was can you have a nanobot so they can manipulate protons and neutrons? To me it seems impossible - the bot has to be smaller or at least on the same scale of an atom to do it but it should still be constructed by atoms, so they would probably be too big to work with protons. But I don't know if you can have a much smaller building block for the nanobots. AFAIK, if you compress an atom to be smaller that is related to Bad Stuff™. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 25 at 8:45
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Given your response to existing answers, I have a potentially showy solution for your would-be alchemist:

Calavarite (naturally occurring gold telluride)

Calavarite crystal

It's uncommon in real life, but could be unusually common for whatever reason in the vicinity of wherever this feat is to take place.

Your would-be alchemist/wizard is dropping fancy stones into vitriol, as one does, to see what happens. To his shock, a gleam of gold starts to form as the liquid turns red. He has discovered the Philosopher's Stone!

(He has not. But it's a good way to get more research money from the local royalty!)

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  • $\begingroup$ This is the correct answer. $\endgroup$ – Gimelist Jan 25 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Gimelist : ^ No it's not : The question was "is there any real-life mineral or element that could be used to artificially create Gold" this answer doesn't answer that question, it suggests a source of gold that gold can be extracted from, & the question wasn't "name an ore that gold can be smelted from" : it's a nice response to the question but to call it the "correct" answer, is not correct. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Jan 25 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore no - because "gold telluride" does not equal "gold". Just like hydrogen does not equal water. So you're taking "some mineral", being gold telluride (= not gold), and you process it somehow to turn it into gold from "whatever its composite elements are", which happen to be gold and tellurium. There was no condition that gold cannot be a component of the mineral. $\endgroup$ – Gimelist Jan 25 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Gimelist : all I can say is kindly read the question again & check the definitions of the words "create" & "extract" then reconsider. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Jan 25 at 3:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore to the "man on the street", or someone in a medieval society with no knowledge of 20th and 21st century chemistry, the distinction in meaningless. When you look at the history of element discovery, many elements were "discovered" only to be later realised to contain a combination of elements. The lanthanides are an excellent example of that. $\endgroup$ – Gimelist Jan 25 at 3:13

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