Behind the Designs with John Bergdahl

Category: Collect

Behind the Design

John Bergdahl is one of the United Kingdom’s most experienced coinage artists and was a natural choice to help us commemorate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. For this once-in-a-lifetime event, John created two regal reverse designs along with a commemorative equestrian portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. Here, he tells us more about his process and the inspiration behind the designs.

As an artist, John explains that his inspiration usually comes in a ‘flash’, although like so many of us, he says, ‘Once the idea has taken root, I then spend a day or two drinking coffee and staring at the wall while the idea comes to fruition!’ Whilst John acknowledges the very special nature of this event, his process remained the same. As soon as he decided to pursue a heraldic approach, he let outlines form in his mind before committing them to paper,

“Images began to formulate in my mind, aided in this instance by having worked for almost 60 years as a heraldic engraver and antique restorer in the silver industry. My first design, for the larger coins, comprises the royal cypher displayed within a rococo-style cartouche made popular in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The second design displays the Royal Arms within a royal mantle – a heraldic device often used on royal coins in the past.”

John is one of the few artists collaborating with The Royal Mint who still works in plaster and therefore has a lot of experience working with our Product Design team. He originally submitted his designs as drawings and later, in time-honoured style and with skills honed with years of practice, modelled them in plaster of Paris. With such intricate detailing, the most challenging and time-consuming part of the assignment was the detailed edging on the royal mantle.

To be involved in such a unique and historic celebration is not something every artist can claim. On this occasion, John pragmatically acknowledges that he has ‘been fortunate enough to be involved with many commissions marking royal celebrations; this one is certainly right up there when judging the importance of the occasion.’

John Bergdahl is a sculptor by trade who has also become an experienced coin designer, creating numerous designs for UK coins, including the reverse for the 2008 Britannia coin and the coins celebrating the London 2012 Paralympic and Olympic Games. He has also created many designs marking historical occasions, including the reverse design for the UK £2 coin commemorating the Mary Rose along with reverse designs for coins commemorating Magna Carta and the Battle of Hastings. Creating designs honouring Alfred the Great, Henry VIII and Queen Victoria, John has marked many royal milestones and anniversaries in British history. He has also created celebratory designs commemorating new members of the Royal Family, including some christenings, and landmark events.

The Jubilee Portrait

The portrait design is reminiscent of the 1953 coronation crown created by Gilbert Ledward RA and features Her Majesty on horseback in the uniform of the Horse Guards.

“I decided to differentiate the familiar equestrian portrait by including the royal garter taken from the Royal Coat of Arms.”

John Bergdahl

Behind the Design

The Reverse Design for the £5, Quarter-Ounce and Two-Ounce Coins

Inspired by regal emblems that have appeared on coins throughout history, this ornate reverse design by John Bergdahl appears on the quarter-ounce, two-ounce and UK £5 coins in the collection.

“I looked to the past and made use of the royal mantle surround, which I believe was used on the coins of William IV.”

John Bergdahl

Behind the Design

The Reverse Design for the Five-Ounce, Ten-Ounce, Kilo, Two-Kilo and Five-Kilo Coins

Inspired by royal symbols and rococo elements, including scrolls and florals, this particular reverse design by John Bergdahl appears on the five-ounce, ten-ounce, kilo, two-kilo and five-kilo editions in the collection.

“I decided to make use of the royal cypher (EIIR) and looked for a way of differentiating it from the modern more simplistic, minimalistic treatment and adopt a richer, more regal, portrayal. To achieve that, I looked to the past and decided to utilise the kind of rococo cartouche used in the mid eighteenth century.”

John Bergdahl

Behind the Design

Join in the celebrations with our Platinum Jubilee Coin Collection.

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