Friday, August 19, 2011

How medals are made?

The Design

    Computers are used to produce final drawingsThe whole thing starts with an idea, then that idea is translated into words and sketches, photographs and other reference material are also used as guides. A graphic designer will then render the idea and finally a medal designer produces the final drawing of your medal. Starting with an already rendered image cuts the design phase short, however the work of our medal designer who produces the final drawing is inevitable.

Making the Mold

    A plaster mould ready for customer approvalFor high-relief three-dimensional medals (example: portraits, scenes, etc...), a sculptor produces a first enlarged model sculpt on clay using fine cutting and grating tools. The clay model then will be cast in plaster and reduced to the proper size using a special 3D reducing pantograph and will then be used to produce the pressing die. Digital 3D modeling techniques are also used for that matter. 3D medals have the most appealing impressions, they are also known as miniature works of art.
    For 2-dimensional medals this whole process can be skipped. The final drawing can be used directly to produce the necessary tools for making the coining die, thus cutting the cost of die making tremendously.

An automatic reducing pantograph

Making the Steel Coining Die

    Steel coining die
    Using the tools produced in the previous phase, a die is produced. The die goes through several procedures before it can be used as a coining die. It may need to be turned off to be accommodated in the minting collar and minting press. The die surface may need to be smoothed as well. Finally, the die is heat-treated to harden it. The exact optimum degree of hardness must be achieved in order to avoid cracking the die under strong pressure while striking.

Making The Steel Cutting Die

    If your medal has a special shape, then a cutting die has to be produced. Producing cutting dies is a costly process, so unless you have clear reasons, we highly recommend that you choose a circular shape, better yet one of our standard sizes.

Getting Ready For Minting

    Strips of metal (brass, copper, nickel silver, silver or gold) of specified width and thickness are prepared from metal sheets. The strips are then cut using cutting dies to produce blanks. (unlike other mints, Absi Co. produces its own dies internally). If a Proof or Brilliant Uncirculated finish is desired then the blank planchets are polished (by tumbling or by a rotating brush).


    The minting press utilizes very high pressure (e.g. 500 tons), to impress upon the blanks a negative motive of the die. After fixing the top and bottom dies in the minting press, blanks are fed to the press and are stamped on both sides at once. If the medal is required to have a low relief then one strike is enough, however, Proof or High Relief medals may be struck two or more times. After each strike, the medal must be heat treated to reduce its hardness.


    Depending on customer requirements, different procedures are used to produce different types of medals. Minted medals can be gold plated, silver plated etc... They can be chemically treated (artificially oxidized) to give them an antique appearance, sand blasting may be required, surface polishing may be applied, even hand color-filling may be required.
By Abdallah Absi


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