Gold & Silversmith
Czech Alchemist Goldsmithing
The inspiration for my company name, Czech Alchemist Goldsmithing, is from my Czech ancestral heritage and the story of alchemy at the Prague Castle’s Golden Lane.
Alchemy, the medieval forerunner of chemistry, is closely tied with the legend of Golden Lane in the Prague Castle compound. The lane of very small houses was originally built as part of the fortification for the marksmen and their families at the end of 15th century. But, the real fame and also the name, came during the reign of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, in 16th century. The Emperor, known for his support of the arts and occult sciences, such as astrology and alchemy, spared no expense in bringing Europe's best alchemists to his court. His lifelong quest was to find the Philosopher’s Stone, which in turn would produce gold from other metals like lead. Since the Emperor wanted to closely observe the work of the alchemists, he settled them together with the goldsmiths in the lane which then assumed the name of Golden Lane.
Alchemists were a clan of gold refiners that guarded their secrets by clouding the truth with mysticism. Their secret of turning lead into gold, was to take rock crush, suspected to have gold, and mix it with concoctions of mercury, acids and flux. The mercury that drew the gold out, along with the other impurities, needed to be burnt off. The Alchemist would then take this grey glob, that appeared like lead, and put it into a poreous crucible. By applying a hot flame some of the slag was burnt off and some was absorbed into the poreous crucible. What was left was a beautiful lobe of gold. So began the legend of turning lead to gold.
Golden Lane’s houses changed occupants many times over the centuries. Various famous artists and writers lived there mainly for the romantic setting. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Castle resident maintenance workers lived there. One of my relatives, a goldsmith, was among them.
Eventually, by about 1950, the whole lane was changed into a living museum, with souvenir shops and exhibitions. There is also a Museum of Alchemy in close-by Powder Tower.