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Alchemical Medals

As a very old branch of natural philosophy, alchemy dealt with the properties and reactions of substances. Alchemists speculated about the structure of matter and dealt with the production of remedies, as well as the transformation of substances into precious metals, for example. They used symbols of astrology and performed mysterious acts. They succeeded in reinventing porcelain and black powder, as well as discovering chemiluminescence. From the 18th century onwards, new approaches and experimental methods in the successor disciplines of chemistry, pharmacy and metallurgy increasingly led to verifiable findings and successful applications.
Miraculous success stories were summarised in an article Alchemist's Gold in 1890.

Alchemical medal about 1600, in Stuttgart
The coin cabinet of the Württemberg State Museum in Stuttgart preserves a gold medal, which is recorded in old inventory lists as a "coin of alchemical gold, round, with a lion on the altar, to which a handle is attached". The gold in this piece is said to come from base metal in an alchemical transformation. On the two sides there are pictures, symbols and texts that refer on the one hand to the precious metal gold, but on the other hand also to dark powers that helped with the transmutation.

Medal made of "alchemical gold"   Ø 36,5 mm, 24,6 g.  Landesmuseum Stuttgart, Inv. MK19316.
One of the two eyelets is broken off.
Obv.:   Gold represented by the lion (sign of the zodiac) on a pedestal and the engravings (celestial bodies sun and sun demon).
Rev.:   The man with the crown represents the success of an alchemical process in which gold was extracted from common metal. Around names of the angels who rose up against God: SAMAEL (Samuel), SOMACHIEL, STAHAEL (Satichel), SORAXIEL, SRQVIEL (Satquiel), OFFIEL, STEMANA (Semana), VOAMO, SABICHEL (Sabaniel or Sarichel) and MANASIEL (Manasel).
Seven metals were assigned to the seven known celestial bodies, the "planetary metals". Thus, the red planet, Mars, was assigned iron, the silvery-white moon was assigned silver and the shining sun was assigned shining gold. Each planet was also assigned a sign of the zodiac: Mars was Aries, the Moon was Cancer and the Sun was Leo.

Ref.:
• Matthias Ohm: Alchemistische Medaille
• Matthias Ohm: Aus der Mömpelgarder Sammlung in die Stuttgarter Kunstkammer. Zwei Inventare von Münzen und Medaillen der Herzöge von Württemberg-Mömpelgard, in: Geldgeschichtliche Nachrichten 49 (2014) H.276, S.317-328, Nr.8.

Frederick I of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Duke 1675-1680-1691
Alchemist's Thaler 1687 in Gotha
Frederick I of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (*1646, †1691) had an intense interest in alchemy. His diaries prove that he was fond of alchemical experiments not only in theory but also in practice. Frederick I hoped to be able to produce gold through alchemy and thus obtain great riches that would relieve his tight budget.


6 ducats 1687, Gotha,   dies by Christian Wermuth.     Ø 38 mm, 21,91 g.   Steguweit 137 (dort als 10-facher Dukat und Feinsilbertaler).
On the Duke's alchemical experiments.

Obv.:   FRIDERIC9us.Dei.Gratia.DVX.SAXniae.Iuliaci.Cliviae.ET.MONTium
"Frederick by the Grace of God, Duke of Saxony, Jülich Cleve and Berg"
Laureate head right, below I.G.⚛.W. (Johann Gottfried Wichmannshausen, mint master 1683-88).

Rev.:   A.NUMINE.LUMEN. - SUSCIPIO.Got.1687.ET.REDDO·
"From God I received the light and give it back"
Above a bank of clouds between the radiant sun (=gold) and moon (=silver), the divine clarity shines as
a six-pointed star in a crown of points and rays and lowers its bundled rays onto the
alchemical eagle in the flames. In the eagle's beak in an eternity ring the symbols of
the chemical substances Ɵ (salt), (sulphur) and (mercury).
After the auction in 2018, it was discovered that this was a piece that had been missing from the Gotha Coin Cabinet since World War 2. The auctioneer then paid the consignor his proceeds from his own cash and returned the piece to Gotha.

Lit.:
Eberhard Auer: Die alchemistischen Medaillen Herzog Friedrichs I. von Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg von 1685 und 1687, Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Thüringische Münz- und Medaillenkunde Heft 8 (1997) S.77-84.

Medal on the Transmutation, in the GNM Nuremberg
Transmutation (transformation) into the precious metal gold was an important goal of alchemy.


Struck gold medal on the 'Transmutation', n. d.   about 1700.   Ø 33 mm, 13,31 g.
Specimen in the Germanic National Museum Nuremberg, Med.5830

Obv.:   ACQUIRITUR PRECIBUS AD DEUM MAGISTERIUM
"A rare magisterium is obtained from God"
An adept (owner of the secret) kneels with folded hands in his laboratory with a still and a magic
six-pointed star. Above him a cloud of thoughts with the word FIAT ("let there be prepared").
In the background, shelves with bottles.

Rev.:   ⚛NON A ME SED EX DEI OMNIPOTENTIS GRATIA
"Not from me, but thanks to God’s almighty grace"
Two crucibles connected with streams of vapour. The streams surround a five-flowered plant on a hill in
the background. Above sideways sun (gold) and crescent moon (silver), each with face.
On the obverse, the medal emphasises the importance of divine favour for the success of the laboratory work, i.e. for the "magisterium". The reverse illustrates the magic required. The graphic template for the reverse motif is accompanied by a legend, which is important for understanding the symbolism: Fumus complectitur Fumum et herba in montibus capit utrumque ("Vapor embraces the vapor and the herb receives both").

Ref.:
• Hartlaub, Gustav Friedrich: Der Stein der Weisen: Wesen und Bildwelt der Alchemie, München 1959.
• Karpenko, Vladimir: Alchemistische Münzen und Medaillen, in: Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums 2001, S.59.
Illustration of alchemy (virtual exhibition): Medal with alchemical and mystical symbolism.

Medal 16th/early 17th century

Struck medal n. d. (16th / early 17th century).     Ø 45 mm, 23,7 g.   Coll. Goppel 5146.
Obv.:   NATVRA·NATURAE·GAVDET·CONTINET·SVPERAT QVAE
"Nature enjoys nature, it contains and surpasses everything"
Wild man (⊙) and woman (☾) sawing at a tree stump from which a plant with three flowers grows.

Rev.:   IS·QVI·ME·GENVIT - SINE ME NOA·NASCITVRIES
"He who begot me will be born without me"
Crowned double-faced man holding a crown and the staff of Mercury stands on a circle containing a
rectangle and a triangle; water and rocks in the background.
On the left between the rocks the die cutter signature W.

City of Nuremberg, medal n.d. (around 1700)

Silber medal n. d. (c. 1700), unsigned, by P. H. Müller.     Ø 44 mm, 29,90 g.
Obv.:   NON FVI, QVOD ERAM; - NVNC SVM, DVM MORIOR·
"Ich bin nicht gewesen, was ich war; nun bin ich's, indem ich sterbe"
Luna-Diana rises from a burning pyre in which Mercury lies.

Rev.:   SIC CAPIVNT TECHNIS PROFVGVM ME SANGVINE IVNCTI·
"So fesseln mich, [weil ich] vor den Künsten floh, meine Blutsverwandten"
Winged Pluto captivates Mercury while Jupiter sits on a flying eagle and points a torch at Mercury.
This medal illustrates two principles of alchemical teaching: One is the idea that other substances can be created from the original substance (materia prima) through transmutation. This assumption also prevailed for metals until the 18th century. In this sense, the obverse shows the transformation of mercury, called Mercurius in alchemy, into silver, which is equated with the moon or Diana. Correspondingly, the burning of the Roman god Mercury and the resulting Luna-Diana is depicted, here with the crescent moon as well as the quiver as an attribute of the Roman goddess of hunting.
The reverse side, on the other hand, illustrates the principle of dual opposites that spring from the primordial substance, the materia prima: above - below, good - evil, etc. In alchemy these counterpoints are represented by sulphur and mercurius, which are also understood as male and female. However, there is a third element, sal or salt. Regarding the relationship of the three to each other, different opinions stand side by side; sometimes Sal is seen as the mediator between Sulphur and Mercurius, sometimes Mercurius is seen as the link between Sulphur and Sal. The latter is certainly related to the function of its namesake, the god Mercury, who as messenger of the gods mediated between Olympus and Hades or as psychopompos ("soul guide") led souls from this world to the underworld. The present medal reverse seems to depict precisely this contrast: Jupiter on the eagle represents the upper world or Olympus or Sulphur, the winged Pluto the underworld or Sal, and Mercury unmistakably Mercurius. Jupiter and Pluto try to hold on to the vanishing Mercury, as the legend also makes clear: SIC CAPIVNT TECHNIS PROFVGVM ME SANGVINE IVNCTI. The inscription also refers to the volatility and changeability of both the messenger of the gods and the mercury (see obverse of the medal) and emphasises the unity of the Materia Prima, which can only exist through the cohesive holding together of all three components. [Kü-282, p.302]

Lit.:
Gebelein, H.: Alchemie, München 1991, S.64-72.

Alchemical plate 1648 for Emperor Ferdinand III
(no image known)
Johann Conrad Richthausen, Baron of Chaos (1604-1663) was mint master in Vienna 1648-1658, chemist, coin expert and patron of the arts. Anton Köhler reports on him in 1846 under the keyword Alchemy:
... and even the considerable wealth of the famous Joh. Conr. von Richthausen, Baron von Chaos, one of the greatest benefactors of the orphans in Vienna, is said to have had its source in the gold tincture known to him. At the end of the last century, a gold piece weighing 300 ducats was still on display in the imperial treasury, which Baron Chaos v. Richthausen is said to have transformed from lead into gold: it had on one side the inscription DIVINA METAMORPHOSIS EXIBITA PRAGUAE 16 JANU. 1648 IN PRAESENTIA SAC. CAES. MAJEST. FERDINANDI TERTII ("The divine transformation performed in Prague on 16 January 1648 in the presence of the Holy Imperial Majesty Ferdinand III"). On the other side: RARIS HAEC UT HOMINIBUS EST ARS, ITA RARO IN LUCEM PRODIT: LAUDETUR DEUS IN AETERNUM QUI PARTEM SUAE INFINITAE POTENTIAE NOBIS SUIS ADJECTISSIMIS CREATURIS COMMUNICAT ("This art is rare for men, so rarely is it brought into the light: Praise God forever, who shares with us a part of his infinite power"). - There was also a large oval plate cast from metal, which an Augustinian monk called Wenceslas is said to have turned half of into crown gold in Leopold I's presence, so that the basic material could still be recognised. Man zeigte noch zu Ende des vorigen Jahrhunderts in der kaiserlichen Schatzkammer ein Goldstück in der Schwere von 300 Dukaten, welches Baron Chaos v. Richthausen aus Blei in Gold verwandelt haben soll: es hatte auf der einen Seite die Aufschrift DIVINA METAMORPHOSIS EXIBITA PRAGUAE 16 JANU. 1648 IN PRAESENTIA SAC. CAES. MAJEST. FERDINANDI TERTII ("Die göttliche Umwandlung vorgeführt in Prag am 16. Januar 1648 in Gegenwart der Heiligen Kaiserlichen Majestät Ferdinands III."). Auf der anderen Seite: RARIS HAEC UT HOMINIBUS EST ARS, ITA RARO IN LUCEM PRODIT: LAUDETUR DEUS IN AETERNUM QUI PARTEM SUAE INFINITAE POTENTIAE NOBIS SUIS ADJECTISSIMIS CREATURIS COMMUNICAT ("Diese Kunst ist selten für Menschen, so selten wird sie ins Licht gestellt: Lobt Gott für immer, der einen Teil seiner unendlichen Kraft mit uns teilt") - Auch eine große ovale, von Metall gegossene Platte war dort, die ein Augustinermönch, Wenzel genannt, in Leopolds I. Gegenwart zur Hälfte in Krongold verwandelt haben soll, so daß man die Grundmaterie noch erkennen konnte.
The following article is about the last-mentioned "piece half transformed into crown gold".

Lit.:
• Anton Köhler (Hsg.): Curiositäten- und Memorabilien-Lexicon von Wien, 1846, S.31
• Mario Pedinelli: Alchimia ed arte: Le medaglie commemorative alchimistiche, Accademia Roveretana degli Agiati, Atti B 1966 serie VI, p.97

Alchemical medallion 1677 for Emperor Leopold I, in the KHM Vienna
made of alchemical gold according to the legend n the obverse according to the legend of the obverse
The so-called "Alchemical Medallion" was made in silver and then dipped into a liquid (probably nitric acid) on 15.11.1677 (feast day of St. Leopold) in Prague in the presence of Emperor Leopold I, after which it took on its golden colour. On the front and back, a strip of silvery grey has remained in its original state (because it has not been dipped). This was described in 1770 as "more than half transformed into crown gold, so that one sees the basic matter together with the transformation" (according to Curiositäten- und Memorabilien-Lexicon vol.1, 1846, p.31).
The triangular notches come from samples that were probably taken as early as 1677. The last analysis of the piece in 1932 showed: gold 47.55%, silver 43.37%, copper 7.56%, rest (tin, zinc, iron) 1.52%.

Cast gold medallion 1677, by Wenzel Seiler von Reinburg.    Ø 301-374 mm, 7.200,4 g.
Exhibited in the Numismatic Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, inv. no. 27bβ.
See the reverse in a separate window.

Obv.:   SACRATISSIMO / POTENTISSIMO ET INVICTISSIMO / ROMANONORVM IMPERATORI / LEOPOLDO I  "To the most holy / powerful and invincible / Roman Emperor / Leopold I." /
ARCANORVM NATVRÆ SCRVTAToRI CVRIOSMO / GENVINVM HOC VERÆ AC PERFECTÆ / METAMORPHOSEOS METALLICÆ / SPECIMEN.
"the diligent explorer of nature's secrets, and brings this curious true piece of a perfect metallic metamorphosis (transformation)" /
PRO EXIGVO ANNIVERSARY DIEI NOMINALIS "for a name day" / MNEMOSVNO /
CVM OMNIGENÆ PROSPERITATIS VOTO "with all kinds of congratulations"/
HVMILIMA VENERATIONE OFFERT ET DICAT / IOANNES WENCESLAVS DE REINBVRG "... offered in humble adoration by Johannes von Reinburg" / NVMINI MAIESTATIQVE EIVS "..." / DEVOTISSIMVS. / ANNO CHRISTI MDCLXXVII DIE FESTO / S.LEOPOLDI / COGNOMINE PIIOLIM MARCHONIS AVSTRIÆ / NVNC AVTEM PATRONI AVGVSTISSIMÆ / DOMVS AVSTRIACÆ / BENIGNISSIMI.
Rev.:   In the centre the portraits of Leopold and his third wife Eleonore Magdalena of Palatinate-Neuburg, surrounded by 40 numbered portraits of (partly fictitious) proceedings of Leopold. Each of the portraits with its own inscription.
Centre: LEOPOLDVS.I.IMP.ROM.ET.ELEANORA MAGD.TERES.IMPERAT.ROM.
- Outer row (No.1-20) from 12 o'clock to the right -
1.PHARAMVNDVS PRIMVS REX FRANCORVM.A.CHR.419.
2.CLODIVS.CRINITVS.FRANCORVM REX.II † A.CH.448.
...
20.HVNPRIDVS.COMES.HABS.LVTE.FIL.VIX.AN.C. 931  
- Middle row (no.21-32) from 12 o'clock to the right -
21.GVNTR.COM.HABS.WER.II.FIL.VIX.AN.CHRST. 943  (Gutram, †973, considered the progenitor of the Habsburgs in 1160)
22.BETZO.COM.HABS.GVN.II.FIL.VIX.AN.C. 970   (Lanzelin, Kanzelin or Landolt, †991, son of Gutram)
23.RAPATO.COM.HABS.BETZ.FIL.VIX.AN.CH. 1034   (Radbot, †1045, son of Lanzelin)
24.WERNER.COM.HABS.RAPAT.FIL. † AN.CHRIS.1096 (Werner, †1096, son of Count Radbot of Habsburg)
25.OTTO.COM.HABS.WERN.FIL. † AN.CHRI.1080   (†1111, son of Count Werner)
26.WERNERVS II.CO.HABS.OTHO.FIL.VIX.AN 1140   (†1167, son of Count Otto II)
27.ALBERT.COM.HABS.WER.II.FIL.VIX.AN.CHR.1191   (†1199, son of Count Werner II)
      missing: Rudolf II the Kind, Count of Habsburg, †1232, son of Count Albrecht
28.ALB.II.COM.HABS.ALB.I.FIL. † AN.CHR.1238   (Albrecht, Count of Habsburg, son of Count Rudolf II of Habsb.)
29.RVDOL.I.ROM.IMP.ALB.II.CO.HABS.FIL † CH.1291   (1273 first Habsburg as Roman-German king)
30.ALBERT.I.ROM.IMP.A.AVSTR.RVD.I.FIL. † AN.CH.1308   (1298 Roman-German king)
31.ALBERT.II.ARCHID.AVST.ALB.IMP.FIL. .AN.1358   (Albrecht II. of Austria, †1358)
32.LEOPOLDVS PROBVS.ARCH.AVST.ALB.II.FIL † 1386.  
- Innermost row (No.33-40) from 12 o'clock to the right -
33.ERNEST.FERREVS.ARCHI.AVST.LEOP.FIL. † A.C.1495. (sic)   (Ernst the Iron, †1424)
34.FRID.IV:ROM.IMP.AR.AVSTR.ERN.FIL. † A.C.1492.   (Emperor Frederick III.)
35.MAXIM.I.ROM.IMP.A.A.DVX.FRID.IV.FIL. † A.1519.
36.PHILIP.I.AVSTIACo.REX.HISPA.MAX.I.FIL. † A.1506.
37.FERD.I.RO.IMP.REX.HVN.ET.BOH.PHI.I.R.FIL. † A.1564.
38.CAROLVS.ARCH.AVST.DVX.STYR.FER.I.IMP.F. † 1590.
39.FERD.II.RO.IMP.REX.HVN.ET.BOH.CAR.A.F. † A.1637.
40.FERD.III.R.I.SAC.H.B.REX.ARCH.AVST.F.II.FIL.A.1657.
Emperor Maximiian I propagated the "Frank theory", which traced the lineage back to Troy via the Franks.

The model of the reverse was probably made by the Tyrolean Johann Permann in Vienna, based on a suite of medals available there. The obverse was designed by Johann Wenzel Seiler von Reinburg, who also made the piece and publicly demonstrated the "transformation" by immersion.
On Wenzel Seiler von Reinburg (*1648 †1681):
His father died after handling fireworks. Wenzel was an Augustinian monk in Brno from 1667-71. He carried out alchemical experiments at Feldsberg Castle with Prince Karl Eusebius of Liechtenstein in 1672, shortly afterwards at the imperial palace of Laxemburg, and finally at the former archducal laboratory in the Hofburg. He is said to have carried out a transmutation of tin into gold in 1674. He was raised to the Bohemian knighthood in 1676. In 1677, in the presence of Ks. Leopold I was present for the transmutation of the medallion. He was elevated to the hereditary baronial rank of "Court chemist" in 1678.

Ref.:
• Anton Köhler (Ed.): Curiositäten- und Memorabilien-Lexicon von Wien, 1846, p.31f
• Heinz Winter: Das große "Alchemistische Medaillon" des Wiener Münzkabinetts, in: Bernd Kluge / Michael Alram, Gold Giganten, Das große Gold in der Münze und Medaille (Berlin 2010) 64-68.
• R. W. Soukup / J. Hladík : Die Geschichte des kaiserlichen Hof-Chymicus Wenzel Seiler ... in: Dějiny věd a techniky 41, 2, (2008) 103-129 and PDF

Gold medal 1716 for Charles III Philip of the Palatinate, in the KHM Vienna
Picture of the reverse missing.
Stuck gold medal 1716.     Ø c.57 mm   Coin Cabinet, KHM Vienna,
a transmutation and created medal on New Year's Eve 1716.

Obv.:   AUREA PROGENIES PLUMBO PROGNATA PARENTE
"A golden daughter born of a leaden parent"
Sun god with scythe and hourglass (?) sitting on cloud with sign "h" or (lead / Saturn)

Rev.:   METAMORPHOSIS CHVMICA SATURNI IN SOLEM ID EST. PLUMBI IN AURUM.
"Chemical metamorphosis of Saturn into Sun happen"
SPECTATA OENIPONTI. TIDECEMBRIS MDCCXVI. PROCURANTE:   ""... December 1716 delivered"
SERENISSIMO CAROLO PHILIPPO COMITE PALATINO RHENI S:R:I:ARCHIDAPIFERO ET ELECTORE BAVARIAE. IULIE. CLIVIAE. ET MONTIUM DUCE. TVROLIS GUBERNATORE ET.ET. ATQUE IN HAC MONETA AD PERENNEM REI MEMORIAM ARCI AMBROS ET POSTERITATI DONATA
The original is preserved in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna: MK 15147bb, gold (& MK 145542, silver).
A copy is in the British Museum
www.imago-images.de show a purchasable drawing of the front side.

Lit:
• George B. Kauffman: The Role of Gold in Alchemy. Part III, Gold Bull., 1985, 18, (3), 109-119.  PDF
• Meeting 2.2020 in Vienna: Alchemistische Labore and Program

Epilogue
Nuclear fusion, not chemical transmutation
Modern science has discovered that atomic nuclei consist of protons and neutrons. In the interior of stars, heavy elements from helium to iron are produced by nuclear fusion because the extremely high temperature required to overcome proton repulsion is reached there. Nuclear fusion also converts matter into radiant energy, which in turn can withstand the enormous gravitational pressure of the outer stellar mantle - until the burnt-out star dies. Very massive stars burn out faster than light stars and eventually collapse in a supernova explosion, producing even heavier elements than iron. Fusion into particularly heavy elements such as gold requires even more extreme temperatures, such as those generated by the collision of neutron stars.
A really worthwhile but difficult goal of "modern transmutation" is the generation of energy through nuclear fusion of deuterium and tritium to helium. For the time being, more energy has to be applied in the complex experiment than is gained in the process.

Lit. :   Wikipedia:  Nucleosynthesis   and   Max-Planck-Gesellschaft:  Cosmic crashes forging gold.

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