Crown Gold

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What is Crown Gold?

Considered a precious metal due to certain properties and characteristics, gold has been employed as currency since the ancient times. However, because pure gold is too soft to be used for any length of time without deforming, it has to be alloyed with other metals to harden it before it can be circulated as currency. The practice of alloying gold with other metals for the use of currency has existed since before the Christian Era, with the practice continuing until much of the latter part of the 19th century, and with occasional mention in this, the 21st century.

Of the noted alloys of gold that have been used for currency, crown gold remains, to this day, one of the still circulated gold-alloys used as legal tender. Though it may sound like gold expressly meant to make crowns out of, crown gold is actually a special alloy of gold made expressly for the production of gold coins. The name ‘crown gold’ came about due to the fact that it was the alloy of choice for minting crowns or British crowns of the golden variety, originally worth five shillings, with a modern value of five pounds. This was only applicable to silver crowns however, as golden ones were primarily considered bullion coins and thus was worth the amount of gold in it. Crown gold is closely related to golden sovereigns, since, as a measurement of alloying, it became the standard for all gold coins issued, replacing the original gold sovereign which was deemed too soft for general and long-term circulation.

Crown gold is an alloy of gold and copper amounting to 22 karats, or 91.667% gold with the minute addition of copper. Crown gold came about during the time of Henry VIII, where coin manufacture was regulated to change the original composition of the gold sovereign from its original 23 karats, to the current 22 karat gold composition. This was partly due to the coin being too soft for constant use, often wearing off long before its time; However Henry VIII was infamous for 'debasing" the currency by melting down old coin, adding some base metal and creating more coins of the same face value form the same amount of gold.

The softness of fine gold also made it easier for people to file off the edges of the coin in imitation of wear, only to collect the filings that ensue from it. To decrease the wear to coins by natural or artificial means, the coin needed to be hardened, and a standardization of the composition began, resulting in the alloy we now know today as crown gold – the standard for every circulated British gold currency since Henry VIII’s reign, to the present day, with some exceptions. However, people still clipped coins until the introduction of milled coins with edge markings; which showed immediately if any tampering had taken place.

The traditional recipe for crown gold was usually gold and copper, with copper being used as a hardening ‘agent’ to the softer, more ductile gold. An exception was made on the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign however, when the weight of the copper in the original recipe was replaced with 1.25% silver to allow for a softer coin that would enable a better minting of the Queen’s image. This replacement was made only in the single year of 1887, with minted coins issued being of a limited number, and thus, highly collectible.

Today, all the gold coins issued as legal tender in the United Kingdom are composed of crown gold, with the exception of bullion coins specially made for collectors. Because collector’s edition coins do not undergo the same kind of wear and tear that regular coins go through, they can be made of a purer composition than coins meant for general circulation. These collector’s coins can be as much as 0.999 to 0.99999 fine such as the Canadian Maple Leaf coin. Some collectible coins however are composed of the standard crown gold alloy, usually due to the fact that they were either originally intended for circulation, or were otherwise originally minted with crown gold and have been re-minted as collectibles with the same alloy for historical purposes.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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