One of the oldest coins still produced today, The British Sovereign was first struck over 500 years ago in 1489, named to honor the king and has been a symbol of strength and prestige ever since. During the nineteenth century, the gold Sovereign was a recognized currency in more than 20 countries.
The tale of Saint George and the Dragon was brought back to Western Europe by returning crusaders. It would serve as inspiration when Pistrucci was commissioned by The Royal Mint to work on new designs as a reform of the coinage was undertaken in 1816, the government intervening to re-stabilize the currency after the Napoleonic Wars.
Pistrucci’s interest in St George had been aroused by Lady Spencer, to whom he had been introduced by Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society and friend of William Wellesley Pole, then Master of the Mint. Her Ladyship showed Pistrucci a wax model of Saint George and asked him to make another ‘in the Greek style’. Lady Spencer had no time for a figure dressed in gothic armour, an appealing sentiment to the Italian, whose favorite maxim was said to be ‘study Greek originals day and night’. Pistrucci’s iconic design first appeared on The Sovereign in 1817, instantly distinctive it became a classic and still endures 200+ years later.
A circulating coin, it was struck in 916.7 fine gold to withstand daily use and it is struck from that same durable, 22 karat gold today. Adorned by the renowned engraver Benedetto Pistrucci’s iconic Saint George and the dragon design, which has endured for 200 years.