Australian Opal Silver Coin Series
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The integration of gemstones, both precious and semi-precious, into coinage is a relatively old idea, and is usually the stuff of epic adventure novels. Its execution in real life on the other hand is a feat that not many mints have attempted, typically owing to the fact that coins with imbedded stones would not make for great circulating currency. In effect, it’s aesthetic and intrinsic value would be too great that nobody would want to part with it. However, with the rising interest in precious metal investment, this aesthetic inclusion, done both as a means to add to the inherent value of the coin, and as a way to showcase meticulous craftsmanship, is now becoming more and more popular, if still not entirely commonplace.
The Perth Mint of Australia is well-known for its highly artistic numismatic pieces and meticulous attention to the fine art of coin-crafting. With a nearly dizzying range of bullion coins of the highest purity, they have risen to become one of trusted mints whose issues are highly coveted and collected. In the desire to promote the varied wildlife of Australia and present the masses with another stunning piece of numismatic art, the Perth Mint recently released what would eventually be an eight-piece coin set which would see a change in the yearly releases of two coins per year known as the Australian Opal Series.
As the name suggests, this new artistic endeavour by the Perth Mint incorporates authentic Australian opals into the overall design of the coin. Known for their brilliance and fire, opals were once semi-precious stones that have now become one of the most popular and cherished of gems. The never-before-attempted feat of numismatic workmanship involves the meticulous crafting of the natural opals into the desired shape and even habitat of the featured animal in painstaking mosaic execution. Set into a deep inner panel and offset by a pitch black background that reveals the choice color spectrum of the stylized opals, and widely bordered in mirror-finished proof silver accompanied by choice engravings, these make for truly stunning coins that can double as jewelry. In keeping with the theme of the pitch black background, all animals featured in the Australian Opal series of coins will be nocturnal or night-dwelling animals endemic to Australia. This theme, when coupled with the opalescence of the gem truly awes whoever is fortunate enough to watch the design literally sparkle under the light, a highly unique aesthetic that brings Australian coinage to a whole new level of artistry. Made from 9.99% fine pure silver and struck in proof-quality, these coins weigh one-ounce each and, with a face value of A$1, and a very limited mintage.
The series began with the introduction of the first coin in the series in the middle of 2012. Depicting one of the most iconic Australian animals, the reverse of the Opal Series Koala featured a unique opal-mosaic depiction of a koala on a branch, set in a black background that offsets the opalescence of the gem. The whole of which is surrounded by a rich mirror-finish border depicting eucalyptus leaves and blossoms – the natural munchies of the koala, as well as a new moon and a constellation known as the Southern Cross (a star group visible only in the Southern Hemisphere). The name of the animal, as well as the weight, fineness, date of mintage and the mintmark are also inscribed. The obverse of the coin features a unique revamp of the Ian Rank-Broadley Elizabeth II bust, which is now set in the center of what appears to be radiating lines symbolizing the light of the sun or moon. The legends ‘ELIZABETH II AUSTRALIA’ as well as the standard inscription of face value remains. This new obverse design will remain a constant in all subsequent mintages, and will become yet another trademark of the Opal Series.
The second release followed almost simultaneously after the release of the first – this one featuring a highly ornate opalescent mosaic depiction of a wombat set in a pitch black background that sets off the varying colourations of the opal mosaic as it is played by the light. The whole is framed in a richly detailed yet very simplistic border of Bottlebrush leaves and blossoms – plants commonly found in the natural environs of the wombat, as well as a waxing crescent moon and the constellation of the Southern Cross. As with the previous coin, it too possessed inscriptions on the border of mirror-finished silver, wherein is inscribed the animal’s name, the weight and fineness of the coin, the date of mintage, and the Perth Mint’s mintmark. This unique and original series is still underway, with more coins to come in the following years. For its artistry, superior craftsmanship, and sheer innovation, the Australian Opal Series of silver bullion coins are bound to be an investor’s favourite, and a collector’s prized possession.
Because the Perth Mint uses natural authentic Australian opals in the creation of each coin, the colourations on the deeply imbedded inner panel may varying, making each coin unique in itself despite any similarities in design, making it a true work of art worth obtaining.
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