26th March 1666. The Guinea.
Gold is a very dense metal, second only to Osmium. It is insoluble in Nitric Acid which dissolves silver and base metals, and gives rise to the term ‘acid test’.
John Roettier (1631-1703) was a celebrated engraver of coins and medals at the Royal Mint, in the time of Charles II. His work was described by Samuel Pepys in his Diary dated Today in 1666 as some of the best embossed work that I ever did see in my life’.(1)
John the son of Phillip Roettier of Antwerp trained as a stonecutter and medallist and in 1661 was invited by Charles II, along with brothers Robert and Phillip to join the English Mint. By 1662 John was chief engraver, producing a new Seal for Charles II in 1666. He later engraved Coronation Medals for James II in 1685 and in 1689 for William and Mary.
Roettier also designed the one and two Gold Guinea pieces from 1663. The milled-edged Guinea of Charles II of February had a value of 20 shillings and made legal by a Proclamation of 27th March. It continued until the Great Re-coinage of 1816, when the Sovereign was introduced.
The two guinea piece engraved with Roettier’s dies continued into the reign of James II.
Gold for the Guinea came from the Africa Company of West Africa who imported gold and whose emblem was the Elephant and Castle (howdah) which appeared on many Guineas. It was valued at 20 shillings but increased to 21 shillings and then 30 shillings, as the price of gold increased.
The value of the Guinea was fixed from 1717 at 21 shillings, its value today when used.
(1) Roettier born 4.7.1631. John Evelyn’s Diary describes him as ‘that excellent engraver’, on 20th July 1678.