In an interesting description of the method of manufacturkig gold lace, an exchange pointedly says that gold lace is not gold lace ; it does not deserve this title, for the gold is applied as a surface to silver. It is not even silver lace, for the silver is applied to a foundation of silk. The silken threads for making this material are wound around with gold wire so thickly as to conceal the silk. The making of this gold wire is one of the most singular mechanical operations imaginable. In the first place, the refiner prepares a solid rod of silver about an inch in thickness, he heats this rod,, applies upon the surface a coating of gold leaf, burnishes this down, applies another coaling, burnishes this down, and so on, until the gold is about one-hundredth part the thickness of the silver. Then the rod is subjected to a train of processes which brings it down to the state of fine wire, and it is passed through holes in a steel plate, lessened step by step in diameter. The gold never deserts the silver, but adheres closely to it, and shares all its mutations. It is one-hundredth part the thickness of the silver at the beginning, and it maintains the same ratio to the end. As to the thinness to which the gold-coated rod of silver can be brought, the limit depends on the delicacy of human skill; but the most remarkable example ever known was brought forward by Dr. Wollas-ton. This was an example of solid gold wire, entirely free from silver. Hfi procured a small rod of silver, bored a hole through it from end to end, and inserted in this hole the smallest gold wire he could procure. He subjected the silver to the usual wire-drawing process, until he had brought it to the finest attainable state, being, in fact, a silver wire as fine as a hair, with a gold wire in its center. To isolate this gold wire, he subjected it to warm nitrous acid, by which the silver was dissolved, leaving a' gold wire one-thirty thousandth of an inch in tliickness—perhaps the thinnest round wire that the hand of man ever produced. But this wire, though beyond all comparison finer than any employed in manufactures, docs not approach in thinness the fine film of gold on the surface of sil ver in gold lace. It has been calculated that the gold on the finest silver wire for gold lace is not more than one-third of one-millionth of an inch in thickness, that is, not above one-tenth the thickness of ordinary gold leaf.
This article was originally published with the title "How Gold Lace is Made" in Scientific American 13, 46, 368 (July 1858)