A medailleur is known as a medalist ("medallist" British English) in English speaking countries. A medalist is an artist who designs medallions, badges and/or coins and often also produces them. The production of these items is accomplished through the use of either a die for minting coins by hammering or, in modern times, milling or, mostly in prehistoric times and also in Asia, a mold for casting the desired object. Somewhat confusingly, the term, medalist is also used among English speakers to designate someone who has received a medal for excellence in a sport or an athletic contest.
The design for the coin faces were originally engraved into the coin dies. It was necessary to use a burin to engrave the designs directly into the die inverted (i.e. raised areas of finished coin were hollowed out on the die) and as a mirror image so that the finished coin appeared correct. This resulted in the early medalists being called steel-chiselers. Medalists who were contracted by the state to produce the coins and medallions for the mint were often lent official state titles. In addition to their state contracts, medalists were also allowed to earn income through private commissions for medallions.
The education of a medalist required training as an engraver. After the practical training was completed the medalist was required to receive a formal education in the arts, particularly modeling and portraiture. This usually required attendance to an art academy. Before receiving the contract as a state minter the medalist was required to work for a probationary period as a state employed engraver.
A mark or symbol signifying the medalist as the original designer was often included in a hidden location on the coin or medallion and is not to be mistaken for the symbol of the mint master.
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- How are Coins Made. The United States Mint
- The Art of Minting. The Royal Mint
- The History of Minting. The Royal Mint Museum
- How a Coin Comes into Being Austrian Mint