In chemical analysis, the process of determining proportions of metal, particularly precious metal, in ores and metallurgical products. The most important assaying technique grew largely out of the experiments of the ancient alchemists and goldsmiths. Precious metals tend to occur as scattered particles randomly distributed, so a large sample of ore is required. Such large samples (typically containing gold, silver, and lead) are still most economically assayed by this ancient method, which involves several steps of heating and cooling. More sophisticated recent methods, such as spectrochemical analysis, are not suited to assaying precious metal ores because the samples of the inhomogeneous ore that must be used are larger than the instruments can handle. See also parting.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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