Our look at famous coin designers shifts to the opposite side of the globe and Australian-born gold - with silversmith Stuart Devlin.
Professional Life in Gold and Silversmithing Art
Stuart Leslie Devlin was born in October 1931 in Geelong, an Australian industrial port city 45 miles southwest of Melbourne on Port Philip Bay. Geelong was an important rail and sea terminal during the Australian gold rush of the 1850s, and Devlin connected to the city’s past when he became an art teacher specializing in gold and silversmithing.
His subsequent studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology led to a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London followed by a fellowship at Colombia University in the United States.
Designing Australian Coins
He returned to Melbourne to teach in 1962. In 1964, when Australia prepared to convert to decimal currency, Devlin entered the competition to design the country’s new coins. His winning designs for the reverse of the coins are still in use today. While the reverse carrying Devlin’s artwork is different on each denomination, all modern Australian coins have a portrait of the British monarch on their face (obverse), and in their 51-year run, that has only been Queen Elizabeth II, although her portrait was changed in 1999 to more accurately depict the aging queen.
Australian Coin Design Features
Devlin’s designs for all but one of the fractional dollar coins celebrate native Australian species. The 50-cent coin has the Australian coat of arms on its reverse. When 1- and 2-dollar coins were introduced in the 80s, Devlin produced designs featuring kangaroos for the 1 dollar and an aboriginal elder for the two. The 1-dollar coins, with four young kangaroos—joeys as they’re called—frolicking playfully behind an adult, has become one of the most popular Australian coin designs.
Devlin’s Versatile, Artistic Design Career
Following his success in Australia, Devlin moved back to London and opened a workshop where he refined techniques for producing filigrees and textures, developing his own unique style that he used on gift and collectible items that he sold in a showroom in London’s prestigious West End. His designs for Easter eggs and Christmas boxes were among the most popular, and many are now considered collectors’ items.
In 1966, the Ford Motor Company commissioned Devlin to make a silver sculpture to celebrate the release of its new British models. Since then, he has designed coins and medals for 36 countries including one for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and several Australian award medals.
Besides coins and medals, the versatile sculptor has designed furniture, jewelry, trophies, and clocks, along with goblets, candelabras, and bowls.
In 1982, Devlin was appointed goldsmith and jeweler to the queen. He was Prime Warden of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, a royally chartered guild dating back to 1327, in 1996 and 1997. He stopped designing after a stroke in 2014, but continues his longtime work in educating and training future gold and silversmiths.