In the television series A Game of Thrones, Khal Drogo melts gold in a cookpot over a seemingly ordinary fire, and then pours the melted metal on Viserys' head. How could the cookfire get hot enough to melt gold?

Wikipedia says the melting point of gold is nearly 2000 degrees F.
Reference: "Gold" on Wikipedia

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  • 3
    Question seems trivial (apparently downvotable), but this sort of thing can abort readers from immersion- especially with the production behind both the books and the show, without contextual explanation. – Solemnity Jan 3 '13 at 4:29
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    With Fantasy and Sci-Fi, the suspension of disbelief is often encountered en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_of_disbelief – Force Flow Jan 3 '13 at 16:59
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    There is always that element in fantasy/sci-fi that breaching the boundaries between the worlds makes people crave realism in a world that is entirely unrealistic. :) Dragons? Sure, why not? Melting gold? Surely that's impossible! – TLP Jan 3 '13 at 22:14
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    @Geoff Actually, it is. Perhaps you did not fully grasp why Drogo did it. Viserys had "given" him Daenerys to marry, with the intent that Drogo in return help him win back his birthright. Drogo gave him a golden crown, thereby fulfilling his part of this bargain. – TLP Jan 4 '13 at 17:06
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    @Geoff That sounds good, Geoff. Just as a friendly reminder, this is a forum where such minor details do get debated, so if you don't care, don't argue. It's like the old joke "Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this!" "Doctor: Then don't do that." :) – TLP Jan 4 '13 at 18:05
up vote 18 down vote accepted

Khal Drogo's melting of gold in what appears to be a simple cookpot, without the application of some sort of magic or a carefully stoked furnace, the melting should not have happened at all. Pure gold is simply too tough to melt with an ordinary fire.

  • Pure gold has a melting point of 1945 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • The average cooking fire even with good coals can reach approximately 650 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.

So under this premise, it would be impossible to melt gold over a cooking fire with a standard cooking pot.

  • Impure gold can be melted at lower temperatures but the lowest quality gold at 10K yellow gold, still needs around 1600 degrees Fahrenheit. Hauser & Miller

enter image description here

  • a primitive blacksmith forge with the right kinds of coals, bellows and additives can easily reach 1400 - 2000 degrees but it takes skill, practice and the proper tools.

  • the melting points of a variety of metals which could have been used and heated over a cooking fire limits the potential metals to tin (449 degrees Fahrenheit), lead (621 degrees Fahrenheit), a magnesium alloy (660 degrees Fahrenheit) or an aluminum alloy (at 865 degrees) Cooking at temperatures over a fire at temperatures higher than 650 degrees means most food burns beyond recognition.

  • If you want to be generous and make his fires raging bonfires using oaken wood (which I don't remember seeing that night) he might be able to reach 1200 degrees, but he would need a bellows and a means to raise the temperature of the fire significantly the same way a blacksmith does. At 1200 degrees he would be able to possibly melt poor quality, low-grade, golden alloys.

  • I am not sure why everyone is so emotional over this? The nature of writing is sometimes a writer (even if he is George R.R. Martin) is WRONG. Either through a lack of research, or an overwhelming desire to have a scene look a particular way, they may make a decision to write something and NOT care if it is physically possible. It's a choice the writer makes, it does not stop it from being outside the realm of physical possibility, nor does it make the awesomeness of the scene any less awesome. Hand-wave it away and call it "suspension of disbelief" and keep enjoying the series.

This is a failure of both the writing team and the scientific support team on the set. While the scene invokes the Rule of Cool trope, it fails and instead highlights "How Is That Even Possible" trope.

Khal Drogo melting gold over a cooking fire...

Using Magic

Is there magic that would be capable of making flames hot enough to melt gold? Yes, but it is highly unlikely Khal Drogo would have had access to anyone or any technology capable of producing heat of such magnitude as easily as he did.

All Valyrian magic was rooted in blood and fire. It said they could set dragonglass candles to burning with strange, unpleasantly-bright light. With the obsidian candles, they could see across vast distances, look into a man's mind, and speak with one another though they were half the world apart. It is often said that the old wizards of Valyria did not cut and chisel stone, but worked it with fire and magic as one might work clay.

There are other users of fire magic such as the Priests of R'hllor or the warlocks of the House of the Undying Ones in the old city of Qarth. But given the Dothraki disposition toward magic overall, it is unlikely magic was used.

Witches, or maegi, are reviled as evil and unnatural.

  • 4
    Checking up wikipedia for "flame" and "fire" it seems even a candle (1100C) could melt gold (1064C). A fire that burns at 650F (340C) would not even light a safety match (~500C), so I think you've got your numbers wrong there. – TLP Jan 3 '13 at 9:23
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    Well, it's not really a big point to argue about. All I am saying is that since fire comes close to the temperature required, it is not inconceivable that gold (alloy) would melt. And that might be GRRM's rationale as well. You cannot compare iron and brass to gold, though. And if you want to argue the temperature of fire, I would like to see some quotation on that. – TLP Jan 3 '13 at 22:46
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    This answer looks good superficially, but has a lot of individual problems with the figures. Gold alloys do not necessarily have lower melting points with greater impurity; instead there is a more complex relationship revealed by phase diagrams. 18K red gold melts at a lower temperature (~1670F) than either 24K or 10K gold. A 70% Gold-30% Tin alloy has a eutectic point as low as 570F; etc. So in general, with a gold alloy the melting temperatures are quite achievable with a wood or charcoal flame under normal atmosphere. See the answer at Skeptics.SE for a thorough explanation. – Mark Beadles Jan 4 '13 at 0:14
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    Worn gold is almost never mixed with Tin or Lead. The metals most commonly mixed with gold are there to HARDEN it because of the very soft and ductile nature of pure gold. It is an unusual circumstance to add other metals to gold to soften and already soft metal. Gold is most commonly mixed with copper, silver, rhodium, nickel, palladium. All of these metals will lower the melting point but strengthen the gold. Gold and Tin alloys are used only in electronics which needs softer, easier to melt metals. – Thaddeus Howze Jan 4 '13 at 2:49
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    Who said it had to be a coal fire? It can be a wood fire, which can reach a thousand degrees. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… If they had added methane (which can be collected from horse dung) or some other similar fuel, it could even go to 2000. – Manishearth Nov 7 '13 at 15:13

Answered here on Skeptics

Gold melts at 1064 °C, however, in jewellery, gold is often alloyed with copper (wiki). Though copper melts at 1084 °C, the alloy has a lower melting point, as you can see from the phase diagram (note that the temperature is in Kelvin, which adds ~271):

Gold - Copper phase diagram

If the crown is 18k gold (¾ gold, ¼ copper), which makes an alloy that is harder than gold or copper alone, and gives a nice reddish hue to the gold, then the campfire only needs to be able to produce ~900 °C, which is achievable with the right fuel according to ...

gold melting point according to wiki: 1337.33 K, 1064.18 °C, 1947.52 °F and a quick google puts campfires at 480-1000°C depending on fuel - ratchet freak

  • 2
    This is the correct answer. – slebetman Jun 23 '14 at 4:22

The melting temperature of Gold is 1064.18 °C.

According to wikipedia flame temperatures as: Wood 1027 °C, Charcoal fire 750–1,200 °C

So it doesn't seem unreasonable that a pot on a coal fire could melt a Gold alloy. Note that we don't know the O2 concentration or atmospheric pressure in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, and so these flame temperatures could be very different to our world!

  • 8
    +1 I've come to the same conclusion, but it seems these things are rather hard to google, so the only source I've found is wikipedia. It stands to reason, though, that if the Incans and ancient Egyptians could melt gold, it is not so inconceivable that Drogo would be able to melt gold with his camp fire. Especially considering that gold alloys can have a lower melting point. – TLP Jan 3 '13 at 22:20

I think it is because the fire was burning very hot "HollyWOOD" :-)

Alternatively, perhaps the gold was cheapened by adding lead (or silver/some other alloy such as in the Archimedes story). Lead was often used, make objects feel heavy like true gold and be gold coated but were cheaper to make.

Why this might have worked here:

Gold melts at ~1948F.
Lead melts at ~621F.

Wood goes through several stages before burning. As temperature increases, moisture boils off. At 450 degrees F, wood particles form volatiles, which produce the flames we see. At 750 degrees F combustion becomes possible. An oak log needs between 200 and 400 degrees to maintain combustion and burns at a maximum of 900 to 1100 degrees.

Hence an average cookfire (say a good boy scout campfire) can get to an average of 900-1000. Easy enough to melt lead. If it has an extremely good bed of coals and the right pitch to get a good draft going, you might get to 1200 or so. But, you would still be several hundred degrees Farenheit short of melting pure gold. Even silver takes ~1700 which would be really pushing it on a regular cookfire.

More likely it is because the t.v. producers simply took the story as originally written back in 1996 and never bothered to fact checked the author's claim to see if it would work. I remember reading this scene back in Asimov's when it first came out. I remember thinking at the time it was hogwash and I haven't changed my mind. However, it is still a brutal image.

  • The lowest melting point of a Gold/Lead alloy is lower than the melting point of either metal, and is only about 414F with an 85% Pb alloy. – Mark Beadles Jan 4 '13 at 0:04

Easiest answer is that gold in ASOIF has a different melting point than gold in our world, just as seasons in that world are not the same as seasons in our world.

Second easiest, is that it's not gold, but a fake gold made with a metal with a low melting-point. Khal Drogo might have been duped by an unscrupulous trader, or he used fake gold to add to the insult. "Why, the 'golden crown' isn't even gold at all!"

Real gold in our world, when it's melted, glows yellow, a typical cooking pot (cast iron or copper) would also melt in the tempuratures required to melt gold, and those tempuratures can't be reached on a campfire anyway. Even in a furnace, the time required to melt gold is far greater than the time it took in the show.

It might have been a gold alloy rather than pure gold. There's a chart at http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/gold-alloys-melting-points-d_1434.html listing the lowest possible melting points of various alloys of gold plus one other metal (the melting point depends on the ratio of the two, but the temperatures listed are those for an "eutectic mixture", which is defined as "the mixture at such proportions that the melting point is as low as possible.") The lowest temperature is a gold/thallium alloy which melts at only 268 degrees Fahrenheit, and other reasonably low ones are gold/lead which has a melting point of 419 Fahrenheit, and gold/bismuth which melts at 466 fahrenheit (in real history, both lead and bismuth have been used since ancient times, so it's plausible they'd be available in the world of Game of Thrones). The numbers on this page and this one suggest that over 800 celsius, or around 1500 fahrenheit, would be a reasonable conservative estimate for the temperature of an open wood fire, so it should easily be able to melt nearly all the eutectic alloys on that page (the only ones above 1500 are manganese, sodium, and uranium).

Not as shown.

As noted by others, the melting point of gold is (depending on its purity) between 900°C and 1070°C, see the table below.

A table of melting points of various metals and alloys

The various sources such as the same question on Skeptics.SE and a similar question (silver instead of gold) somewhere else put the heat of a campfire between 500-1000°C, to 1100-1200°C for large fires. Assuming the melting pot was in the fire or very near to it (to have enough heat transferred), it could be possible, depending on the purity of the gold.

So yes, it should be possible in theory.

However, Wikipedia puts the colour of steel at orange at that temparature. So the pot in which the gold was melted, should have been glowing red hot at the very least, as seen in the following image.

enter image description here

Also, the pot was not in the fire but above it, and from the meat being cooked on it, the fire doesn't look hot enough (the meat would've been charred).

So yes, it should (theoretically) be possible, but not as shown.

  • @Gallifreyan yeah. Any image of a pot of molten gold will do, actually. I'll see what I can find. – SQB Mar 11 '17 at 19:43

You're thinking too much about our reality, how do I justify it?

Making the point that the world of Game of Thrones is an alternate reality, (black magic, dragons and other stuff that does not exist in our reality) so maybe the gold in the Game of Thrones reality although looking like the one in our world, melts at a lower temperature as lead, tin, and aluminum melts in ours.

Now, since it is filmed in our reality, what they used for the special affects I am not certain of.

  • 1
    They probably used chocolate and gold paint. – Oldcat Jul 3 '14 at 17:42

No matter what kind of metal it was there was no way it could have melted it. It's shown 30 seconds earlier that the fire wasn't that hot because they poured out a pot of SOUP. Boiling point of water = 100c and melting point of even aluminum is still +600c

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