The Gold Florin is a coin made from pure 24-carat gold weighing 3,536 grams, minted in Florence in 1252.
The coin on one side has represented the elegant lily of Florence, the emblem of the city with the words “FLOR–ENTIA". On the other side of the coin, there is represented the figure of St. John the Baptist, the patron of the city of Florence, joined with the inscription "S. IOHA-NNES B".
The particular beauty of the Gold Florin is its unmistakable prestige in the international markets, which has become the most valuable coin currency of all Europe. Justifying the incredible number of copies, even more than 350, which has been made throughout time!
During the early Middle Ages, the Saracen attacks had made trade difficult in the Mediterranean, and money circulation became rare.
In the era of Charlemagne, the gold coin and the silver coin disappeared quickly with the entire Roman Empire. These coins were replaced with more modest coins made in copper.
The great feudal lords took over the power of minting coins and had begun issuing low-valued coins.
These low-valued coins forgeries created disarray, especially in the banking sector, and for this reason, the main Italian cities had to create a new and more valuable currency to trade. The use of gold for coins was made possible due to the restarting trade with North Africa, from where most of the gold coins and trade came from.
Florence coined the Gold Florin, made of pure gold to be established on all markets until it became the European common currency, where all the others had to use it. This was one of the first pure gold coins to be minted in Italy after the fall of the Roman Empire.
In 1252, the mayor of Florence Filippo Ugoni permitted the People's Captain to mint his own coin because of the city's economic growth. The Florentines decided to create a coin in pure gold with the sole purpose of maintaining a fixed value since it had a stable weight and minting was of high quality. Consequently, the Gold Florin was very popular in Europe and became a currency of exchange in the known world.
The Gold Florin circulated all over Europe and gained the attention of many who ended up falsifying the coin; over 350 copies were made.
There were severe penalties for the falsification of the coins. Since the control over the Florentine Florins was constant, they became one of the most stable. They appreciated gold coins according to the European bankers in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Due to the era's mindset, the figure of the was the guarantee of authenticity because it drives from the Florentine saying "San Giovanni non vuole inganni”, which translates to St. John does not want deceptions.
The circulation of the gold was limited to the higher classes because of its great value. The gold florins were only used for certain financial transactions. Meanwhile, for ordinary transactions, the people would use divisional coins called “pìccioli”, which were money and silver coins.
To avoid the fraudulent practice of scraping the gold coins to obtain gold, called “tosatura”, the coins were sealed in a bag by the Mint to be used without having to take them out of the bag.
The lord of the mint was a master officially pointed by Florence every six months by the “Arte di Calimala”, with the task of guaranteeing the quality of the coins and the supervision over the work of the Florentine Mint.
The representation of the Florentine coin was rigorously kept the same, not identical because the cones were replaced biannually, yet bearing the elegant Florentine lily on the reverse, and the other side shows the figure of St. John the Baptist, patron of Florence. The symbol of the Master of Mint is stamped above the hand of the figure of St. John.
The creation of the biannual cones was performed in three steps:
Creation of the cone: The chosen blacksmith worked the metal, creating a rough cylindrical cone.
Incision: The task of the engraver to create works of art on the rough cone with small tools. The two incisions had to be approved by the Master of Mint.
Temperature: After the approval of the incisions, the blacksmith tempered the cone to make it more resistant, given the high number of coins to be minted.
Everything was made by hand with the help of hammers, iron pieces, anvils, burins, and small chisels. The lower cone, where the front part of the coin is engraved, is called “Pila”, which was attached directly to the wooden block. The upper cone, called “Torselo”, was where the coin maker would be struck the gold with a water pressure hammer activated by the Arno river.
The Coin Masters were the “Arte di Calimala” officials that were in charge of checking the gold, the casting, the recovery of the imperfect coins, the trimmings, and the gold dust residue of the fillings.
Florence gave the responsibility to control every phase of the minting of the Gold Florin to the “Arte di Calimala”, the most ancient of associations from which Florentine merchants belonged.
In 1345, the main headquarters of the minting took place in the actual Piazzale of the Uffizi, where they would use water-operated hammers of the Scheraggio stream for the minting. Afterward, the operations were moved to the Mint Tower in Piazza Piave, adjacent to the Arno river, to ease the minting labor.
Often, the artisans could not perfectly stamp the coins, producing coins with not a good impression. These imperfect gold Florins had an excess of gold called “calia”, which could have been filed away, but would have lowered the coin's value.
To avoid the devaluation of the gold coins, the officials of the “Arte di Calimala” would weigh every single gold coin by placing them in sealed bags. A perfect Gold Florin had the figure of St. John perfectly upside down compared to the Florentine Lily. These were called the "Fiorini di Suggello" that ensured the gold's quality and weight.
Year 1252 – Gold Florin – Diameter 18 mm - Weight 3.50 gr. – Unknown Minting Master
The Florin is a coin made from pure 24-carat gold 3,536 grams. The coin on one side has represented the elegant lily of Florence, the emblem of the city with the words “FLOR–ENTIA. On the other side of the coin, St. John the Baptist, the patron of the city of Florence, joined with the inscription "S. IOHA-NNES B".
The major of Florence Filippo Ugoni permitted the People's Captain to mint his own coin because of the city's economic growth. The Florentines decided to create a coin in pure gold with the sole purpose of maintaining a fixed value since it had a stable weight and minting was of high quality.
This coin became very popular in Europe, and soon the Gold Florin became a unique currency of exchange in the known world.
Year 1369 – Gold Florin - Diameter 18 mm - Weight 3.45 gr. – Unknown Minting Master
In 1369, Florence coined the Florin in pure gold in the "Thin Florin" period, the reason for which the coin had a diameter of 18 mm.
Subsequently, the Florentine Republic decided to enlarge the gold Florin to 21mm in diameter without changing its weight to give more dimension to the coin. Our ancestor, Jacopus Da Scarperia registered the historic Torrini trademark at the State Archives in Florence in the same year.
The Gold Florin marks the end of financial and social turmoil in Florence due to tragic events such as famine and the Black Death. A Gold Florin for hope and rebirth. Its value grew throughout the years by 30%, compared to the coins used normally and daily.
Year 1427 – Gold Florin – Diameter 21 mm - Weight 3.52 gr. – Minting Master Antonio Canigiani.
The period from 1422-1459 defined the first “Large Florin”, specifically in 1427. The Republic of Florence entrusted the minting of the gold Florin to the Master of Mint Antonio Canigiani. The minting of this coin follows the historical event of the Florentine Republic’s purchase of the Port of Livorno for 100,000 of these Florins for two years.
In 1427, Giovanni Averardo de Medici, father of the Great Cosimo, began his rise to popularity and political power. In that year, the Gold Florin was equivalent to 4 Florentine Lire with a difference of 3 Lire from the original parity of the past 175 years. In the 60s of the 14th century, after two decades of wars and suffering, the vitality of the Florentine Republic brought back a booming economy.
The issue of this coin takes place in a special year for Florence: the start of the construction of the Dome of the Cathedral that had bled the Republic’s finances. The law for the land registry was promulgated, a revolution at the time of great social conflicts and taxation, which earned the Republic 25,500 gold florins.
End of the XIV century – Quarter of Florin – Diameter 12 mm - Weight 0.83 gr. – Unknown Minting Master.
The Quarter of Florin was coined by a Master of Mint at the end of the XIV century and was continued to be used by the Republic of Florence until the beginning of the XV century.
This coin was created when the Gold Florentine Coin of 1252 had doubled the value of the Lire. During this period, Carlo di Valois expelled Dante Alighieri from the territory of the Florentine Republic. After the severe famine and Black Plague of the first half of the 14th century, which decimated the population of Florence.
The Quarter of Florin represents the growth of the economic activities linked to wool, consumption, and investments in Art.
Year 1504 – Double Gold Florin – Diameter 28 mm - Weight 6.98 gr. – Minting Master Lorenzo Guidetti.
In 1504, the Master of Mint Lorenzo Guidetti coined the "Double Gold Florin”. The Secretary of the Florentine Republic was Niccolò Machiavelli, establishing monetary tensions that lead to the end of the Republic and the rise to power of the Medici family.
In 1504, the gold Florin was equivalent to over 5 Lire, and this double gold Florin partially covered Florence's incessant need for capital.
Pope Leo X disbursed half a million Gold Florins for the war against the Duke of Urbino to favor Lorenzo "Il Magnifico" de Medici. The Double Gold Florin was a coin minted in pure gold with a 28 mm diameter.
Year 1726 – Mezzo Zecchino– Diameter 18 mm - Weight 1.74 gr. – Unknown Minting Master – Period of Gian Gastone de Medici 1723 -1737.
The "Half Zecchino" or "Half Florin" also known as "Half Ruspone" was coined in 1726 in pure gold by an unknown mint master. This coin has the particularity of portraying only the bust of Sant. John the Baptist and not the whole figure of the Saint as tradition dictates, making it particularly rare.
It was one of the most popular coins of the time, thanks to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Gian Gastone de Medici, who carried out an economic miracle to benefit Florence.
In 1727, Gian Gastone declared the “Universal Collections” termination, which required poor subjects to contribute to the Grand Duchy’s overabundance.
Year 1724 – Fiorino Gigliato (known as Ruspone) – Diameter 27 mm - Weight 10.46 gr. – Unknown Minting Master – Period of Gian Gastone de Medici 1723 -1737
The extinction of the Medici family with its last descendant, Gian Gastone, is represented with this coin, called the “Florin Lily” or “Gold Florin of Three”, most commonly called "Ruspone".
This coin has a curious story: every weekend, Gian Gastone would gift a “Ruspone” of pure gold to his favorite servants, and the other servants of the building in envy would call them “Ruspanti”.
The coin was minted for the first time in 1724 at the decree of Grand Duke VII of Tuscany Gian Gastone de Medici in pure 24 kt gold with a diameter of 27 mm.
The Gold Ruspone was one of the last issues of the Grand Duchy of Florence, Gian Gastone, who left no heir. Without sons, held the Medici dynasty to fall, an unrepeatable era for Florence.
Year 1572 – Gold Plate – Diameter 39 mm - Weight 33.80 gr. – Unknown Minting Master.
This coin indicates the emergence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany with the intense profile of Cosimo I de Medici on one side and the figure of Sant John the Baptist, the Patron of Florence, on the other side.
The Medici lineage ceased with Gian Gastone, who perished on July 9, 1737, without leaving heirs. This coin was created in 1572, weighing one ounce with a diameter of 39 mm.
One of the last issues of Cosimo I to celebrate his prestige and love for the Arts.
Year 1676 – Ongaro di Livorno – Diameter 23 mm - Weight 4 gr. – Unknown Minting Master
Coin issued by Cosimo III de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, to honor the city of Livorno in favor of himself to demonstrate his power.
Year 1296 – Grosso da Due Soldi – Diameter 21 mm - Weight 3 gr. – Unknown Minting Master – Period of the Pope Bonifacio VIII
An unknown mint master coined the “Grosso da Due Soldi” during the Republic of Florence with a 21 mm diameter in silver. One could say that this coin witnessed the restless end of the thirteenth century and represented the power of individualism.
The high-powered of the time needed the support of the Florentine banks for their personal affairs and tried in every way to grace them. This historical fact is documented in the painting by Jacopo Ligozzi, located in the Palazzo Vecchio.
Year 1478 – Grosso Guelfo – Diameter 30 mm - Weight 2.35 gr. – Minting Master Bertoldo Corsini
The “Grosso Guelfo” was minted in 1478 when there was the historical event, the Pazzi conspiracy. A conspiracy hatched by the Florentine family of bankers de' Pazzi to break the dominion of the Medicis through the support of the papacy and other external subjects. On this occasion, Lorenzo "Il Magnifico" de' Medici lost his brother Giuliano, stabbed inside the cathedral of Florence. For revenge, he arrested all the members of the Pazzi family and publicly tried them with the death penalty.
"Everyone will mock your name, and everyone will use your name as a synonym of madness," said Lorenzo de 'Medici mocking the conspirators. From this moment on, the Lord of Florence came out bigger than before and will be known with the nickname "The Magnificent".
Year 1506 – Quinto di scudo –Diameter. 28.7 mm - Weight 7.72 gr. – Mint Master Francesco Davanzati
The minting of the Quinto di Scudo coincides with the period Raffaello stayed in Florence in his early twenties. He came to the cradle of the Renaissance to study and gain experience.
Year 1250/60 - Fiorino di stella in silver – Diameter 20.2 mm - Weight 1.60 gr. – Unknown Mint Master
In 1252, the fiorino with the figure of Sant John the Baptist on one side and on the other the lily had begun to be issued, becoming, in a very short time, the preferred exchange currency throughout Europe.
Torrini 1369 is the first jewelry store in Florence to offer original replicas of ancient Florentine coins. In the thirteenth century, with the birth of the gold Florin, the women wore it as a necklace with great pride.
In fact, this coin was the symbol of Florence's wealth in the past.
The oldest literary testimony available to us is that of the Roman jurist Sesto Pomponio from the second century BC, who attests, even in his day, the custom of using "Pro Gemmis" ancient coins gold or silver.
In the 13th century Florence, with the birth of the Gold Florin, the very ladies of the time brought great attention to jewelry that included the coin that had the power to make Florence excel at the center of the financial system known at the time. Today, as then, Torrini proposes this ancient custom.
In 1369, our ancestor Jacopus de la Scarperia registered the trademark of the Torrini Workshop at the “Arte dei Corazzai e Spadai” in Florence. In the same year, the Mint Master Simone Peruzzi engraved a new mint for the gold Florin.
The coin was created based on Florence's wealth and economic success, following the city’s development until the fall of the Republic in 1533.
In the XXX Canto dell'Inferno of the Divine Comedy, Dante recalls the famous story of Master Adamo, placing him in the circle of forgers where the sinners complain of the incessant thirst which torments Adamo deforming his body by inflating his abdomen excessively.
Master Adamo was instigated by the spiteful Guidi di Romena brothers to forge the Gold Florins by removing 3 carats from the 24 carats of gold of the coin and replacing them with other metals. The forged coins were sold to a money launderer, who worked in Tuscany, Perugia, and even Rome, discrediting the famous coin. In 1281, Master Adamo was arrested and burned alive on the spot by the Florentine guards in Casentino. This event gave the name to the place now called “Omo Morto” (Dead Man).
Dante found the story of master Adamo inside a box full of forged Gold Florins after a fire in a cellar in Borgo San Lorenzo.
Traditionally in Florence, the Florin was gifted on the occasion of the birth of a boy or a girl. In 1300 the pure gold Florin had a great value, representing a real endowment for the child and the figure of the city's patron for the protection of the child’s life.
The family would gather around the child, and the father would settle the coin in the child’s hand. If the child instinctively held on to the coin, it was considered a promising sign of wealth. To this day, the tradition is very popular in the Florentine culture.
Donating a gold Florin as a sign of good fortune is always appreciated. Especially on occasions of baptism or other important occasions such as communions, confirmations, weddings, anniversaries, or graduation parties. Accompanied by the wish of “One Gold Florin today, a thousand tomorrow”.
A popular saying, “St. John does not want deceptions.”, is a religious proverb, widespread and used daily in Italy, where its meaning varies from region to region. It is thought that in Florence, the saying derives from the Florin. As previously mentioned, one of the sides of the Florin bears the elegant Florentine Lily, while the other side presents the patron of Florence, St. John the Baptist.
Having the patron on the reverse side of the coin was considered a guarantee of the purity of the gold coin. Considering if one were to forge the Florin, it would be a serious crime against Florence's Municipality and against God for trying to steal directly from a Saint.