Calcination (also referred to as calcining) is a thermal treatment process in absence of air applied to ores and other solid materials to bring about a thermal decomposition, phase transition, or removal of a volatile fraction. The calcination process normally takes place at temperatures below the melting point of the product materials. Calcination is not the same process as roasting. In roasting, more complex gas–solid reactions take place between the furnace atmosphere and the solids.
In alchemy, calcination was believed to be one of the 12 vital processes required for the transformation of a substance.
Alchemists distinguished two kinds of calcination, actual and potential. Actual calcination is that brought about by actual fire, from wood, coals, or other fuel, raised to a certain temperature. Potential calcination is that brought about by potential fire, such as corrosive chemicals; for example, gold was calcined in a reverberatory furnace with mercury and sal ammoniac; silver with common salt and alkali salt; copper with salt and sulfur; iron with sal ammoniac and vinegar; tin with antimony; lead with sulfur; and mercury with aqua fortis.
There was also philosophical calcination, which was said to occur when horns, hooves, etc., were hung over boiling water, or other liquor, until they had lost their mucilage, and were easily reducible into powder.