William wyon (1795–1851)
Struck in history. A timeless collection revived with state-of-the-art innovation and technology.
When William Wyon RA worked on the original Una and the Lion coin, The Royal Mint had only recently entered the industrial age.
The new facility at Tower Hill opened in 1810 and was equipped with steam-powered machinery – a huge leap forward.
Technology raised production standards, while Wyon and his contemporaries strove to elevate numismatic art. But coin design was a very different process from what we know today.
This was a time before electricity, let alone lasers. Nineteenth-century engravers worked entirely by hand on the tiny roundel of a coin, which makes the detail and artistry that Wyon achieved even more astonishing.
Digital techniques are used to flatten its form before a larger version of the pattern is produced in Perspex. This is used to create the plaster mould which is 300mm in diameter.
With the constraints of size removed, our craftsmen are able to enhance the detail of the original design and remove historical blemishes.
Next, the plaster model is scanned and the digital file saved. Form is added at this stage along with additional border detail.
The dies are then cut and hand-polished before striking. Machine precision elevate the finish, but without running roughshod over Wyon’s artistry or crowding out traditional craftsmanship.
The result is a beautiful homage to the original with improved detail and surface quality – a process of remastering that breathes new life into a treasure of numismatic art.
Restoring a design from a bygone era requires sympathy and skill, and a blend of traditional handcrafting and modern striking techniques. The process starts with the original die, which in this case has been kept in storage at our museum for almost 200 years. Restored to its original condition, a silicone rubber mould is taken then scanned. Despite the passage of time, Wyon’s stamp has been carefully retained.
In today’s twenty-first century mint, engravers aren’t bound in the same way. Instead of working within the confines of a coin’s circumference, they cut designs into oversized plaster models. The finished model is optically scanned, digitally capturing the finest details. The resulting scan can then be used by a laser cutter to reproduce the design perfectly, a level of precision that Wyon could only have dreamt of. No doubt he would have found the process fascinating.
William Wyon’s Una and the Lion is the first coin in a brand-new series – The Great Engravers.