An Enduring Masterpiece
For the original sovereign of 1817, St George was shown holding a shattered lance in his right hand, another portion of which lay on the ground below. Pistrucci constantly strove for perfection in his work, however, and made an important change to his masterpiece for the silver crown of 1818 when he replaced the broken lance with a short sword. Although subsequent sovereigns of George III remained unchanged, it was this amended version that graced the first sovereigns of George IV issued in the early 1820s. Other changes are evident on these sovereigns too, for the surrounding garter belt had been removed and the Saint’s helmet stripped of its streamer. Fortunately, the valuable coining tools from these early sovereigns have been preserved and recently entrusted to the Royal Mint Engraving Team. The result is a sovereign with a reverse design that in every respect is the work of Pistrucci himself.
The Gold Sovereigns of the Nineteenth Century
As part of a major coinage reform in 1816, William Wellesley Pole, then Master of the Royal Mint, wanted coins to be made to the very highest standards and he employed the Italian gem engraver, Benedetto Pistrucci, to bring his aspirations to fruition. By the following year Pistrucci had created his portrayal of St George and the dragon for the gold sovereign, a design of such classic beauty that it has endured to this day. Over the years his original has been modified many times until it has developed into the design with which we are all familiar.