The Golden Sand

Johann Joachim Becher was yet another alchemist, who was very active in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Originally from Germany, he had established his office in Amsterdam, where in 1679 he published his major work, presenting three of his inventions.

Later Becher set up his company in Haarlem, where with the help of his newest inventions attempted to produce gold from sea sand. All attempts failed, however, and Becher quickly became the object of ridicule, so much that even a play was written featuring a fraudulent German alchemist by the name of Goudschalk (meaning ‘gold jester’), who strongly resembled Becher.

‘The Converted Alchemist’ was not an extraordinary play, yet it preserved the attitude quickly forming in the wake of the 18th century, when the alchemists were no longer treated as potential miracle and gold-makers. They had enough time to back up their claims, and having failed to produce gold, they were now being treated with scorn.