Today (November 10) the Bank of Latvia issued a new gold coin associated with the Baltic republic’s centenary of independence, which was declared on November 18, 1918, and officially recognized on January 26, 1921.
This first coin launches an interesting and unique series that will highlight some of the country’s ancient and medieval history through its brooches. Today’s release replicates a 3rd- to 4th-century disc fibula, which is a brooch or pin for fastening garments. (Scroll below the specifications chart for more on the history of fibulae.)
The coin, which is produced by the Mint of Austria on behalf of the Bank of Latvia, was designed by Latvian artists Ingūna Elere (graphic design) and Solvita Rulle (plaster model). The obverse side of the coin replicates a unique, openwork specimen (also discussed below) that was found in a Latvian graveyard.
The reverse includes a five-line inscription: #Latvija, #ripsakta, #3_4gs, 5 euro, and #2016. The hashtags or pound signs are part of the inscription and represent the coin’s origins in the modern era. Designer Elere says, “The brooch tells a story about the third and fourth centuries, but the reverse of the coin [tells us] about the present day, i.e., how we communicate in the virtual environment and social networks, and how we select topics important to us.”
|5 €uro||.999 gold||3.10 g||18 mm||Proof||7,000|
Latvia’s centenary celebrations will commence with national events planned from 2017 and continuing for the next five years, until 2022. Latvijas Banka will contribute to Latvia’s centenary program by the issuance of a number of commemorative and collector coin series, along with several coins dedicated to the establishment of an independent state. Latvijas Banka will conclude Latvia’s centenary celebration with a commemoration of the Bank of Latvia itself on November 1, 2022.
For more information on this and other Latvian coins, please visit the website of the Bank of Latvia. Additional information on international sales is not yet available.
The Ancient Fibula: Practical and Often Beautiful
The word fibula is a Latin term and refers to Roman brooches; however, the term is widely used to refer to brooches from the entire ancient and early medieval world that continued the Roman tradition.The fibula developed in a variety of shapes; essentially based on the safety-pin principle, they were used to fasten as well as adorn clothing by all—men, women, and children. The form of and ornamentation on brooches also served a protective function (jewelry as amulet). The form, size, designs, and materials may have changed over the centuries, but the brooch has remained popular until the present day.
The history of the brooch in the territory of Latvia can be traced and recorded with various examples from the early Iron Age (1st–4th century AD)—the so-called augen (eye) fibulae, tutulus (plate) fibulae, cross-ribbed fibulae, arbalest (crossbow) fibulae, and round-disc fibulae with openwork wheel, cross, and other motifs. The older brooches were obviously imported, but soon the local craftsmen began to use them as models to make their own brooches, with their form reflecting the local aesthetic and cultural concepts.
Amber was one of the barter goods prevalent in the Baltics even in ancient times. The sought-after substance, which was crafted into jewelry by local artisans, also helped cultural contacts to flourish all over the European continent and even further afield. As a result of these contacts, Roman coins appeared in the east Baltic region along with objects produced in the provinces of the Roman Empire, particularly jewelry—and these extraordinary brooches.
The disc fibula that is replicated on the new coin was a singular find in the Dzelzava’s Jaunzemji graveyard in the Madona region. It is both laconic and luxurious at the same time, as the openwork on its disc surface forms a complex geometrical ornament. It may have also served as an amulet, reflecting the sun cult that had gained popularity and importance in the crop-growing regions of Europe, including the Baltics. The circular design and motif are also associated with rotation, dynamism, and continuity.