The purity of the sovereign issued in sec. the 19th is 22 carats but contains 7.31 grams of pure gold. It is smaller than both the original sovereign and the guinea, and the reason was the equalization of its value from one pound to 20 shillings.
Fittingly, the introduction of the British sovereign began with a gigantic monetary enterprise – the Great Coinage . This is the second such operation in British history, the last having been carried out over a century earlier when William III remelted hand-struck silver shillings. In the process, a huge amount of guineas were melted down to produce the new money.
The creation of the gold sovereign was not only a new chapter in England’s financial history, it marked the emergence of Britain’s most popular coin, which is still issued today without changing standards. In addition, today it is produced according to the most rigorous standard in the world , its pure gold content is guaranteed to five decimal places.
British Gold Sovereign Design
The first sovereign was issued in 1817. The obverse features George III, whose profile faces right. Tradition says that kings should only be represented in profile and facing the opposite direction from their predecessor . For example, when the first King Charles III effigy coins are issued, his portrait will face left.
The first issue of the 1817 British gold sovereign, featuring King George III on the obverse and St George and the dragon on the reverse
The obverse of the first sovereign coin depicts the scene with St. George and the dragon, made by Benedetto Pistrucci. Because the image was so detailed, the masters of the Royal Mint could not use ordinary steel molds, so the artist had to make the mold himself. If in the original image Saint George had a broken spear in his hand, four years later it was replaced by a short sword, which has not been changed.
Timothy Nod created an author’s design, so St. George is represented in medieval armor and helmet, and this design was used on coins only in 2005. Seven years later, the coin again has a unique design, namely St. Gheorghe stabs the dragon with a spear. The design was created for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee and only 750,000 coins were produced.
The Presence Of The Royal Coat Of Arms On The Coin
The coat of arms of Great Britain appeared on the gold sovereign for the first time in 1825, by order of King George IV. Five years later it was modernized by William IV, and in 1838 it was renewed by Queen Victoria. All three designs belong to Jean-Baptiste Merlin of the Paris Mint.
The new look does not enjoy the popularity of the image of St. George, who is the spiritual patron of England. So, in the early 1870s, it was returned to the reverse of coins, including the special 1887 issue produced to mark Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. When they were made, the Finance Minister indicated that Pistrucci’s image was:
“Marked by tradition and recommended for its exceptional beauty .”
Although the coat of arms is still occasionally used (including on the 2022 Elizabeth II coins), from the late 19th century, the iconic design of St. George and the dragon is still used today . It has adorned the sovereign for over two centuries and has been used by every monarch of the United Kingdom in the 20th century. It can be said that the image is as stable as the sovereign itself, which also does not change its characteristics.
Other Versions Of The Sovereign
Again, in the early 1820s, denominations of two pounds (13.324 grams of pure gold) and five pounds (33.3720 grams) began to be produced. Rarely used for payment, they are not regularly minted and their editions are generally limited. The original £5 coins produced during the reign of George III were also collectors’ items rather than legal tender.
In addition to these, coins of quarter and half pound denominations are struck, including today. The latter were also introduced in 1817 and had a relatively high circulation. Apart from the difference in physical characteristics and the 3.6575 gram pure gold content, the half-sovereign coins originally featured the coat of arms instead of the image of St. George and the dragon, but this was later changed.