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Article: Tumbaga


Composition and properties

  • Tumbaga is an alloy of gold and copper.
  • It has a lower melting point than gold or copper alone.
  • Tumbaga is harder than copper but remains malleable.
  • It can be treated with citric acid to dissolve copper, leaving a layer of pure gold.
  • This process is called depletion gilding.

Use and function

  • Pre-Columbian cultures used tumbaga to make religious objects.
  • Tumbaga is versatile and can be cast, drawn, hammered, gilded, etc.
  • The proportion of gold to copper in artifacts varies widely.
  • Some tumbaga also contains other metals, up to 18% of the total mass.
  • Lost wax technique and depletion gilding were commonly used to make tumbaga objects.

The Tumbaga Wreck

  • In 1992, silver tumbaga bars were found in wreckage off Grand Bahama Island.
  • The bars were made from plundered silver, copper, and gold.
  • They were melted into tumbaga bars for transport.
  • Tumbaga bars were usually melted back into their constituent metals in Spain.

Related alloys

  • Guanín: Pre-Columbian Central American alloy.
  • Tombac: Copper-zinc alloy.
  • Orichalcum: Fabulous metal mentioned in ancient writings.
  • These alloys are related to tumbaga.


  • Tumbaga definition in Wiktionary.
  • Fester, G. A. (1962). Copper and Copper Alloys in Ancient Argentina.
  • Chymia. 8: 21–31. doi:10.2307/27757215.
  • The Tumbaga Saga: Treasure of the Conquistadors by Daniel Frank Sedwick.
  • Additional references can be found in the Wikipedia article on Tumbaga.

Tumbaga Data Sources

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