Art Mint takes us through the four elements and their elementals with its new silver coin series, starting with the gnomes of Earth

Earth, air, fire and water, the four elements that have entered the popular consciousness as the building blocks of the natural world. Dating back to the Hellenistic period, it was the Greek philosopher Empedocles who first proposed the concept, and it continued to have influence over everything from philosophy, and the sciences, most worryingly, medicine, where they were thought to be the source of all illness through their association with the four humours.

The belief spread widely, and they appear as a part of many major belief structures, like Hinduism, and Buddhism, and in cultures as far afield as Japan, often incorporating Aether, a fifth element added by Aristotle in the 4th century BCE. That’s hardly surprising, given Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great, and Alexander took those beliefs with him on his unofficial tour of the known eastern world at the point of a hoplite spear.

The elements became associated with different elemental beings, and for this series, Art Mint has chosen the fascinating work of the 16th century Swiss physician, alchemist-philosopher, Paracelcus, created during the German Renaissance. He associated the gnome with the Earth – indeed, it’s derived from the Greek ‘ge-nomos’, which literally means ‘earth-dweller’. They’re now a hugely iconic part of everyday mythology, just have a look in a rural English garden, for example, and most fantasy franchises like Harry Potter, and Tolkien’s world have analogous versions of them.

The coloured section of the coin reverse has a very Tolkienesque feel to it, so much that you could imagine it adorning the cover of one of the Lord of the Rings books. Surrounding it is a different, almost medieval take on the diminutive creatures. It’s all very striking, set around the inverted pyramid pointing towards the earth, and playing up the nurturing nature of this ‘element’. A green crystal is set into the top above the title inscription, and the serial number is inscribed on the edge.

The obverse will be common to the series, and surrounding a central area with the usual coin issue details in it, are four segments, each carrying a symbolic representation of the element. This side is antique finished without colour, and ties in nicely with the theme on the reverse face. The coin comes boxed with a Certificate of Authenticity, and just 300 will be struck. A fine debut, it should be available to order now. The following coins will feature the Undine (water), the Sylph (air), and the Salamander (fire).


2,000 Francs CFA (Cameroon) 62.2 g of 0.999 silver 50.0 mm Antique, Colour 300