A Piece of Our Heritage: The Art of Medal Making

Our manufacturing tradition is one of our strengths, and the way our artisans make it thrive cannot but make us very proud and grateful. We’d like to share this piece of tradition with you — discover here the creative process of Savelli’s medals, step by step.

Medal Design

Everything starts with an artistic idea. First, a professional sculptor outlines the sketch of the medal, then engraves it on a clay base. Afterward, the mixed plaster is poured into the clay mold to obtain the reverse side of the medallion — the so-called ‘negative.’ The latter is then used as a mold for bronze casting.

Figure 1. Plaster (left) and Bronze (right) casts. Note the dimensions at this stage of the creative process.

Medal Die

At this point, our artisans put their 1922 pantograph into motion (Figure 2). The bronze cast is now used for engraving the die with this reducing machine (the pantograph), fitted with a rotating cutting bit — la touchée. This technique allows us to scale down large relief designs to the size of a medal, usually ranging between 10 to 16 mm.

Figure 2. Our 1922 pantograph (right). The picture on the bronze cast (left) is reproduced on a die by the rotating pit (center). 

This process is repeated three or four times to achieve the optimal level of the picture definition. It takes between 144 and 192 hours — 48 per session! — to complete the whole procedure. After that, the artist retouches all the details manually. The resulting ‘male’ die is used to create its own reverse, the ‘female’ die. The latter is the one actually used to coin the medals.

Figure 3. Different measures of a male die for the same medal (left). From the male die, we create the female die (center) that is used to coin the medals (right).  

Medal Stamping

Once we have the ‘female’ die, we can now cut out smooth coins from a metal sheet. Each piece is manually positioned inside the machine press (Figure 4, right), so to struck the design on each of them. When the medal is two-sided, it takes some skills to reposition the medal correctly the two times.

Figure 4. The striking. Golden sheet (on the left), used to cut out the empty medals (center), which are then positioned inside the press.

Once cast, the resulting medal has a long way to go before reaching its final appearance. First, a medal stripe has to be removed from its edges, minor casting flaws get repaired, and the details improved with a chisel. This procedure is 100% manual. Take a look at Figure 5 below to get an idea.

Figure 5. The struck medal needs to be perfected.

Medal Finishing

Next step: we sand down the edges of the medal, and incise the details of the relief again whenever needed.

The Galvanic Bath

After the finishing, the medal gets oxidized in dedicated machinery with the help of pumice spheres for one hour and forty minutes. It receives a galvanic bath to intensify its color. Rhodium-plating is used for white color, gold-plating for yellow color. In simple terms, the plating consists of covering the surface with a thin layer of metal.

Figure 6. Medal oxidation (left) and plating (right).

The Sandblasting

As a next step, the surface layer is rubbed away with compressed air and sand. It confers better definition and a distinguished finish to the medal — which is, by the way, characteristic of all Savelli jewelry.

The Varnishing 

Once the borders of the medal are polished, the medal itself gets a finishing layer of transparent varnish for protection. Et voilà: the medal is ready!

Figure 7. The edges getting manually finished and the medal finally varnished.

This is our heritage, our quality statement, and our pride. And the fact that our religious jewelry travels around the world to make people happy and reinforce their faith is proof that the game is worth the candle.