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Submissions/A history of Mathematics of silversmiths

From Wikimania 2010 • Gdańsk, Poland • July 9-11, 2010


This is an open submission for Wikimania 2010.

A history of silversmiths' mathematics
Author of the submission
Chalkou Maria
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Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
University of Athens
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Abstract (please use no less than 300 words to describe your proposal)
The problems of goldsmithing and silversmithing were exceptionally popular and held an important position in the mathematical education in Byzantium, even during the last decades of Byzantine Empire, which were times of decadence and poverty. The usefulness of those problems in the construction of jewelers and mintage is obvious, as the value of the golden coin was continually underestimated. It is presumable that the interest of the Byzantine in the alloys of metal had been increased, because of the deals, too. Goldsmithing was considered to be a “holy and divine art” throughout the ages. In the imperial courts, philosophers taught even the emperor. Byzantine emperors depended on the work of those philosophers, in order their palaces to compete as far as the decoration with those of Arabians and later with west. In the codex vindobonensis phil. Gr. 65 (φ. 11r -126r) of the 15th century (1436) most problems of goldsmithing refer to alloys of silver, as well as to those of gold only with silver. The kind of problems that the purity of gold in carats, which someone takes as a pledge, is not known is of great interest. This purity can be found with the calculation of a new alloy, by using a method which the writer describes in the chapter 113. The nameless author of the manuscript, also, mentions a method to increase the purity of a metal, that is with which way, by mixing quantities of silver of different purity (dissimilar ogiōn per liters), we can achieve 10 ½ ogies per liters purity of silver in the final alloy. Although there is no reference in the manuscript to the methods of silver plating, it is sure that they knew them very well, as the trachea (τραχέα: kind of copper coin) were silver plated in order to take the look of a silver coin. Nowadays the method that they used is unknown. In our manuscript the condition “epivolē chalkōmatos” (επιβολή χαλκώματος) is used when it is a matter of adulteration of silver or gold and “lagarissai” (λαγαρίσαι), when the gold is going to become more pure.
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