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ApisMellifera

Why are newer sovereign's 'browner' ?

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I'm still learning about sovereigns but I was wondering why the newer sovereign's seem 'browner' compared to the older ones? I don't own sovereigns yet to compare myself.

I do understand they are struck in 22 carat (11/12 gold and 1/12 copper?) to make the coins harder and more durable but I can't help wondering why modern sov's seem browner and especially seeing this photo on this thread:

http://thesilverforum.com/topic/228-today-i-received/?do=findComment&comment=80399

Thanks :) 

 

SOV.jpg

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Not 100% on this one but it appears that metallurgy was still experimental during queen Victoria's reign and even into the 20th century refining techniques were still being developed. An extract from the gold sovereign by Michael Marsh;

"In 1859 a quantity of gold valued at £167,539 was ordered to be melted and returned to the Bank as unfit for coin due its brittle nature; this gold in fact contained small quantities of antimony, arsenic and lead. Ansell asked to experiment with this gold, and although confronted by several obstacles, including the aversion to change, he was eventually given permission. His experiments brought a successful conclusion and as a result all of the gold was re-wrought at very little additional cost, and without annealing. The new sovereigns were in fact so tough that an ordinary man could not break them even with the aid of a pair of pliers. For his efforts Ansell received a letter of thanks from the Master of the Mint plus £100."

This hints to me that most of the time the gold used in coins at the mint was probably not pure in any measurable sense that we would expect today, but was likely judged by its physical properties and colour. They perhaps made do with what they were given and alloyed it with metals they had available at the mint, which depending on the mint would have included silver, copper, zinc and tin. Pure speculation on what they used in the alloy on my part there, but the gold was evidently not 'pure' and may be attributable to the colour of the older coins. 

Today you can expect the gold to be pure, and the alloy also to be pure copper with no silver, tin or zinc, hence the horrible rose gold colour of the new coins. Perhaps the impurities in the older coins can attribute to the colour somewhat, or possibly the age/oxidisation of the copper in the alloy has something to do with it? If so then the newer sovereigns may also turn a more pleasant colour with time?

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newly minted sovereigns are a rose pink shiny gold colour.

weathered versions I think go a darker matte rose gold

colour a bit like a lighter version of circulated pennies.

chards claims that a small amount of silver in old sovereigns

are responsible for it's yellow gold colour.

the mint would guarantee a fixed weight of gold per

sovereign so this would limit the impurities count?

 

HH

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11 hours ago, KDave said:

Not 100% on this one but it appears that metallurgy was still experimental during queen Victoria's reign and even into the 20th century refining techniques were still being developed. An extract from the gold sovereign by Michael Marsh;

"In 1859 a quantity of gold valued at £167,539 was ordered to be melted and returned to the Bank as unfit for coin due its brittle nature; this gold in fact contained small quantities of antimony, arsenic and lead. Ansell asked to experiment with this gold, and although confronted by several obstacles, including the aversion to change, he was eventually given permission. His experiments brought a successful conclusion and as a result all of the gold was re-wrought at very little additional cost, and without annealing. The new sovereigns were in fact so tough that an ordinary man could not break them even with the aid of a pair of pliers. For his efforts Ansell received a letter of thanks from the Master of the Mint plus £100."

 

All the info I've seen from modern day XRF analysis of old sovereigns indicate they were pretty good in those days. All have been almost exactly 917/1000 gold so their refining techniques must have excellent.

Ah yes, the rare and famous Ansell 1859. I've yet to see one in good condition, considering they were supposed to be tougher than normal, and it's scarcer than you'd think for a mintage of 167k

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Everything I have seen in Museums made out of old gold, even dating back to the Egyptian pyramid contents is yellow gold - like the earlier sovereigns.
Most of this would have been 24 carat gold or thereabouts.

Alloying with silver does tend to make the composition a bit lighter in colour than using copper but I believe many yellowish sovereigns contain copper.

The new Royal Mint sovereigns are very polished and brown/rose tinted as if lacquered so I have to assume this colour is due to the pressing process.
Maybe it is an optical effect like a thin film on glass which can change the substrate colour ?

 

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According to these guys older sovereigns had small (less than 1% it seems) amounts of silver and other metals. This might account for the colour as refining techniques have probably improved allowing for a more pure gold + copper mix.

The chart does not show analysis of george5 or Edward7

https://goldsovereigns.co.uk/goldcoinalloyanalysis.html

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3 minutes ago, DrDime said:

According to these guys older sovereigns had small (less than 1% it seems) amounts of silver and other metals. This might account for the colour as refining techniques have probably improved allowing for a more pure gold + copper mix.

The chart does not show analysis of george5 or Edward7

https://goldsovereigns.co.uk/goldcoinalloyanalysis.html

Not seen that before, although I have seen some data from Chards on an informal basis.

A few interesting points;

The small (5 -8 ppt) silver content of the late younghead sovs have a huge influence of the colour, compared to modern ones.

The first modern day sov, 1957, has nothing in but gold and copper and isn't the red colour of current issues which have an identical composition.

The very large amount of silver in the Sydney mint aussie style coins certainly shows in the colour, and to a lesser extent in the early London ones.

One thing that does appear to be true though; you don't need that much silver to have a huge influence on the colour, tempering that awful copper tone.

The early 20th century coins from Edward and George are similar to the late Victorian ones (1887 onwards) in that a lot of them are quite reddish but you also see a lot of very yellow ones. Would be interesting to see data from these.

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Could it be that the Royal Mint has stopped pickling its coins? According to this old book I found on google books, pickling was part of the manufacturing process of sovereign coins (Ernest Seyd. Bullion and Foreign Exchanges. London, 1868, p. 551)

https://books.google.de/books?id=SL1VAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA551&dq=pickling+gold+coins&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjDvo_hytzgAhWSzaQKHZv2AtsQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q=pickling gold coins&f=false

Pickling was also used for other coins, e.g. the Swiss "Vreneli", making the coins look more golden than their actual alloy by removing some of the copper from the surface. See C-18) from the following FAQ by the Swiss Mint (German only):

https://www.swissmint.ch/d/downloads/aktuell/FAQ-de.pdf

To find out if my guess was right I just emailed the Royal Mint Museum. They should be able to settle the question. I am planning to post their answer here as soon as they get back to me.

Edited by AuAgCU
mistake in reference, part of post obsolete

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I think you have solved it thank you very much. 

Your source talks about pickling the blanks in sulphuric acid "before they passed the dies" which is why the process is not evident from pitting and pockmarking, leaving the process detectable only from the colour. Excellent work.

Is anyone willing to chuck one of their harrington and byrne sovs in some sulphuric acid to see what happens? Pockmarked and pitted to hell no doubt, but should be a much nicer colour. :D

 

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The Royal Mint Museum finally got back to me. No word about pickling I'm afraid, even though I explicitly asked them about it. All they talk about is the purity of the alloy. Here's what they wrote:

"Over time the Royal Mint has developed its refining techniques as technology has developed, and we are now able to extract almost all of the silver out of the gold that we use in our coins, whereas in the past we were not able to do this so effectively. Therefore gold sovereigns in the past were a brighter colour due to this higher level of silver in the gold."

We know from the book I quoted that gold sovereigns where pickled in the 19th century. I would still very much like to know whether they gave it up (which I still believe) and how that affected the colour of the coin. However, I am not going to ask them about it. I have a feeling they don't want to disclose an awful lot of information about the manufacturing process of their coins, and I don't want to pester them.

 

 

 

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Dumb question maybe, but are the common 1oz gold coins like Britannia’s etc ‘yellower’ than the new sovereigns?

In pictures the 1oz coins all look like lovely yellow gold, I can’t afford one to find out for myself! 

Im very slowly collecting sovereigns and Iike many I’m not a fan of the colour. 

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1 minute ago, OnlytheBrave said:

In pictures the 1oz coins all look like lovely yellow gold, I can’t afford one to find out for myself! 

 

Yes the Britannia's are golden yellowish in colour, unlike the sovereigns  

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1 hour ago, OnlytheBrave said:

Dumb question maybe, but are the common 1oz gold coins like Britannia’s etc ‘yellower’ than the new sovereigns?

In pictures the 1oz coins all look like lovely yellow gold, I can’t afford one to find out for myself! 

Im very slowly collecting sovereigns and Iike many I’m not a fan of the colour. 

Get older sovereigns for best colour or 1/10 Britannias. Britannias are 999 gold rather than .917 gold.

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1 hour ago, sixgun said:

Get older sovereigns for best colour or 1/10 Britannias. Britannias are 999 gold rather than .917 gold.

Thanks sixgun 

I might do that or at least get a few. Problem is the cheapest sovereigns are the newest ones!

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I wear a half sovereign ring (I know, I'm an 80s throwback)...but I have had it for a long time and it goes yellow with tarnish but I was once in a rut of washing dishes wearing my rings and the sov would change color from all the cleaning in dishwashing soap...it became not just brighter but seemed lighter..it is a 1986 half sov...the first one I ever had...not it doesn't get tarnished as I only wear it to look silly when out with my wife...lol....competes with all those high school rings those 50 something ex jocks still think are relevent...lol.



Added 0 minutes later...
7 minutes ago, OnlytheBrave said:

Thanks sixgun 

I might do that or at least get a few. Problem is the cheapest sovereigns are the newest ones!

The cheapest ones I'm getting right now cover early 19th century to mid 20th century...I'd not say new.

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