This piece is a
coin, which pays tribute to the contributions made to Australian culture by the singer Dame Nellie Melba. This particular
coin is just one out of a set of five $5
coins, all which were struck into sterling Silver. Australia is a country of rich culture there are people and events
that have contributed to making it so. Each coin celebrates the achievements or effects of significant people and pastimes
which have helped to shape the national Identity that Australia holds proud today. Those chosen to feature on the coins are
believed to have played an important role in inspiring and motivating others on both an individual basis and a national one.
Joining Dame Nellie Melba in this collection of people and pastimes that helped shape Australia are Henry Lawson, Tom Roberts,
The Stockman and horse racing. Together they make up a set known as 'Shaping National Identity', which was released in 1996
from the Masterpieces in Silver collection struck by the Royal Australian Mint.
This coin struck in sterling silver had the reverse designed by Wojciech
Pietranik, who has worked regularly on the Masterpieces in Silver collections for the RAM. Dame Nellie Melba herself is featured
on the reverse and the
legend, her name has been stylised in such
a way to suggest that it is being sung. This is of course intended to represent her tremendous contributions to Australian
culture as a popular singer. The obverse of the coin features the traditional
Maklouf effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the
ELIZABETH II AUSTRALIA 1995. This coin was packaged along with 4 others to create the complete "Shaping National Identity"
set. This set originally came in the simple black box which is a staple of the Masterpieces in Silver Collection, a Certificate
of Authenticity came with the set, which includes a short description of the coins and information regarding the designers
and sculptors. An extract from the certificate reads 'Each of the five coins are struck on specially prepared blanks using
hand-polished dies, following the Mint's strict quality guidelines. The finished product is a mirror-like flat surface complemented
by a delicately frosted raised design.'
Australian born Dame Nellie Melba was an operatic soprano whose talents and dedication to her passion led to her becoming
one of the most famous singers in the late Victorian era, not only within Australia but throughout the English speaking world.
Melba (1861-1931) studied singing in Melbourne and quickly found herself performing successfully there. This prompted her
to search for greater opportunities and she made the decision to travel to London but finding harder that expected to make
an impression, she headed to Paris where she studied singing under teacher Mathilde Marchesi. This would be the move that
sealed her success as she was instantly recognised for her great potential. Around this time she dropped her real name Helen
Mitchell and became Nellie Melba (Melba derived from her hometown of Melbourne). In the years that followed she would debut
and become an instant hit in Paris, London and New York. She had continued success throughout her life with huge tours, becoming
the first Australian to appear on the cover of Time magazine and being appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire in
1918 for her charity work and a few years later as Dame Grand Cross of the British Empire. She died at the age of 69 and
her death was front page news across most of the Western world.
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