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How to make a Nobel Medal

Published torsdag 13 november 2014 kl 12.37
"It's a special thing when you can follow the whole product"
(5:17 min)
Samples of the Nobel Medals in various stages of completion. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
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Samples of the Nobel Medals in various stages of completion. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
Niklas Qvarnström of Svenska Medalj inspects his work. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
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Niklas Qvarnström of Svenska Medalj inspects his work. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
The metal stamps used to strike the image onto the gold. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
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The metal stamps used to strike the image onto the gold. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
Examples of the finished product, with the award for economics on the left. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
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Examples of the finished product, with the award for economics on the left. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.

The company Svenska Medalj in Eskilstuna makes all sort of metal trinkets and awards. But there's one item it casts that's especially unique: the Nobel Medallions.

For decades the Nobel Medals were cast by the Swedish Royal Mint until Svenska Medalj took over the job in 2012. Erik Åberg is the company's managing director and tells Radio Sweden that it's an honor to handcraft the solid gold prizes.

"It's amazing because the medal has looked the same since 1902," he says "This is the most famous medal in the world."

The medals were originally modeled by the Swedish sculptor and engraver Erik Lindberg and with the Peace Prize medal created by the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland and the Prize in Economic Sciences by Gunvor Svensson-Lundqvist.

Åberg says crafting the medals is a complex process with no room for errors. Overseeing that process is Niklas Qvarnström, the medalist in charge of coining this year's 11 Nobel Medals for the laureates in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Economics.

Qvarnström will spend about two weeks in total turning raw slabs of gold into perfectly rounded and punched awards.

"It's a special thing when you can follow the whole product from when I get the materials and then watching on TV when the king delivers them to the laureates," he says.

He first thins out plates of gold in a cold rolling mill and then punches out the disc that will become the award in a hydraulic punch. Afterwards, it's placed inside a press that mints one side with the portrait of Alfred Nobel and the other with a different image and inscription depending on the prize. 

He says he knows when a medallion is finally finished when the fine details on the award, like the waves of hair in Alfred Nobel's beard, appear in the gold.

"When you see all of those small parts, then the striking of the metal is done," Qvarnström says.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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