Medals have been used throughout history to celebrate and reward achievement and continue to be used to this day. Alexander Kirkwood & Son have been creating medals since 1826 for thousands of clients across varied fields. Medals are used from an early age – nearly everyone can remember the allure of a medal at their school’s Sports Day! At University, students can be awarded ‘Class Medals’ (AK&S make them for many of the leading Universities in the UK including St Andrews). Medals are also created as special awards - such as the Livingstone Medal (see below) presented by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society to the likes of Sir Ranolph Fiennes and Sir David Attenborough.
Medal making is an art, the starting point of which is a design. The design can be created by Alexander Kirkwood & Son based on a brief, or you may already have a design in hand. Once agreed, the size of the medal is decided – normally 1.5”, 1 ¾ “ or 2” - however larger medals are possible (see 4" Old Tom Morris Medal example below). With the size and design decided, AK&S can create the ‘die’ – a heavy cylinder of steel with the design engraved in relief at one end. If your medal has two sides then two dies are required – one for the reverse and one for the obverse. With the die or dies finalised, medal stamping can begin. With our specialised equipment, we stamp out the medals in a metal of your choice – this can be in precious metal (gold or silver) or in metals such as copper which can be finished in a gold or a silver plate. Once stamped, the medals are finished by ‘edging’ (filing the rough edges) and specialised cleaning. Finally, the medal can be engraved and hallmarked if required.
The process of medal making can take some time – please allow 6-8 weeks for your order.
3 stages in the process of medal making
Examples of Medals produced by Alexander Kirkwood & Son
Alexander Kirkwood & Son created the prestigious ‘Livingstone Medal’, awarded by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in recognition of ‘outstanding public service in which geography has played an important part, either by exploration, by administration, or in other directions where its principles have been applied to the benefit of the human race.’ Named after the African explorer David Livingstone, it was endowed in 1901 by his daughter, Agnes Livingstone Bruce. Designed by the sculptor James Pittendrigh MacGillivray, it has a portrait of Livingstone on the front and a depiction of the Spirit of Civilisation on the reverse. Alexander Kirkwood & Son created the dies from this design and have struck the medals since the award’s inception. Sir Harry Johnston, a British explorer, botanist and zoologist was the first recipient of the medal in 1901. Over the years, others have included Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Michael Palin and Sir David Attenborough.
Made by Alexander Kirkwood & Son at the end of the 19th century, to commemorate the 700th Anniversary of the Mayoralty of London (1189-1889). It was used by the Corporation of the City of London as a gift. The obverse side (shown above) depicts Richard I (who reigned in 1189) and Victoria (on the throne in 1889, the 53rd year of Her Majesty's reign). Shown above the monarchs are seven entwined circles emblematic of seven centuries. Below is shown St George, the Patron Saint of England.
The reverse (see 3. Finished Medal), depicts St Michael handing the Sceptre, Chain, Sword and Shield of the new Mayoralty to "London", seated on Cornucopia, and already presented by him with City Purse, Keys and Cap of Dignity, in honour of the Office. St Michael stands with left foot resting on Old London Bridge (of 1176) behind him, and right foot advanced. The Tower of London, dating from the 11th century, lies between, connecting the past with the present. In the background are, The Crown, the source of all Civic Authority, The Dome of St. Paul the Patron Saint of London, The Towers of Westminster Abbey, Cleopatra's Needle on Thames Embankment, Old Temple Bar, and The Mansion House, the Official Residence of the Lord Mayor. Written above, "The Powers that be are ordained by God."
Created by Alexander Kirkwood & Son, to commemorate two of the greatest players in the history of golf, Tom Morris and his son, "Young Tom".
"Old Tom" or Thomas Mitchell Morris (1821 to 1908) is often referred to as "The Grand Old Man of Golf". Born in St Andrews, Fife, he started playing golf and caddying at a young age and became an apprentice to Allan Robertson, regarded as one of the world's first professional golfers. After some time in Prestwick, Tom returned to St Andrews to be hired by the Royal & Ancient club as Keeper of the Green and Professional. He was an outstanding player, winning the Open Championship in 1860, 1862, 1864 and 1867. His son, "Young Tom" (1851 to 1875), followed his father's legacy, winning the Open consecutively for 4 years from 1868, a feat that is unmatched.
This wonderful 4" medal can be ordered in any metal / finish, engraved on the reverse and used as a wonderful prize, gift or memento.
The original Lido Golf Course, designed by C.B. Macdonald, was opened on Long Island, USA in 1914. Macdonald was born in Canada in 1855 and sailed to St Andrews, Scotland to study. Whilst there, he became gripped by the game and played matches against the likes of Old Tom Morris. He turned his eye to golf course design and set out to create golf courses in North America as good as those had had seen in the UK. Examples include Shinnecock Hills, Sleepy Hollow, the National Golf Links of America and Mid Ocean.
Sadly, the original Lido course was demolished by the U.S. Navy to use as a military base during World War II. Ever since it’s disappearance, the promise of The Lido has intrigued many as one of the great lost wonders of the golf world. Until now. The Keiser Brothers, alongside golf course architect Tom Doak, have revived it – over 1,000 miles from its original site in Wisconsin, just north of Sand Valley Golf resort. Using old records, coupled with contemporary 3D modelling of every contour, the original course has been painstakingly recreated.
To celebrate the first of many competitions on the new course, The Lido reached out to Alexander Kirkwood & Son for a Hallmarked Sterling Silver quaich and Hallmarked Silver Coins. Members were split into two teams – navy and white (the Club’s colours). The coins were placed in the Quaich and only the winning team were allowed to take one! We are told the event in 2022 was a great success and will be continued annually.
The Glasgow School of Art Chairman’s Medal recognises the best undergraduate and postgraduate students each year, from each of their 5 world-renowned schools*. The medal, an unusual square design, is 60mm, finished in bronze and fitted with a beautiful, tailored, royal blue ribbon. The medal is inscribed, “WHO HATH DESERVED” and features a bird, the branch of a tree, a bell, a fish and a ring, all of which feature on the Glasgow City Crest (dating back to 1488). These symbols represent the life and legends of Saint Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, and are often remembered by the following poem:
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the fish that never swam
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the ring that never wed
Here is the book that’s never read
* The 5 schools within Glasgow School of Art are: The Macintosh School of Architecture, The School of Design, The School of Fine Art, The School of Simulation and Visualisation and The Innovation School.
The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland was founded in 1784. Today, it exists to support the very best standards in agriculture, forestry and stewardship of the countryside. With over 16,000 members, the society strives to inspire innovation, excellence and achievement. To recognise and reward dedication to the industry, the RHASS awards Long Service Medals, supplied by Alexander Kirkwood & Son. Individuals who have been in full time employment in rural, agricultural and support service industries for over 30 years receive a Hallmarked Sterling Silver enamel medal, and for those over 40 years, a Hallmarked Silver Gilt (Gold plated) enamel medal. Recipients also receive a certificate and receive lifetime access to the world-famous Royal Highland Show, which this year celebrates its 200th year. The medals themselves are struck using a stamping die (pictured) with a medal press. They are then enamelled, plated, hallmarked and engraved on the reverse with the recipients name and years of tenure.
Founded in 1834, the Edinburgh Geological Society aims ‘to encourage public interest in geology and the advancement of geological knowledge’, running a varied programme of excursions and lectures.
The Society awards the Clough Medal bi-annually – presented to a geologist whose original work materially increased the knowledge of the geology of Scotland and/or the north of England, or any geologist working in Scotland or the north of England who has significantly advanced the knowledge of any aspect of geology.
Charles Thomas Clough (1852-1916) was a prominent British geologist, famous within his field for his work in the North West Highlands and Hebrides of Scotland. He moved to Edinburgh in 1884 whilst working for the National Geological Survey, and in 1908 became President of the Edinburgh Geological Society, a post he held until 1910.
The Edinburgh Medal was instituted by the City of Edinburgh Council in 1988. Struck in Sterling Silver and Hallmarked, it is awarded every April to an individual whose achievements in science and technology are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity. The winning recipient gives a lecture at the International Science Festival.
Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim, Northern Ireland was founded in 1888. It’s renowned worldwide having hosted more than 60 national championships including nine British Ladies’ Amateur Championships and The Open Championship (the only venue to host outside of Great Britain). The club will host the championship again in 2025.
On April 10 2022, Royal Portrush hosted a major new one-day 36-hole stroke competition for amateurs, competing for the Zara Bolton and Ian Bamford Scratch Cups. Special commemorative medals featuring the 5th green with the ruins of Dunluce Castle behind, produced by Alexander Kirkwood & Son, were presented to the winners.
Zara Bolton was a three times Curtis Cup captain, leading the team to victory in 1956. She was a member at Royal Portrush until her death in 1994. Ian Bamford was one of the club’s longest serving members and donated a solid silver replica of the Irish Open Amateur Championship cup which he won at Royal Portrush in 1957. He is a former Royal Portrush captain and was president of the Golfing Union of Ireland in 1993.
Tennis Scotland is the independent governing body for Tennis in Scotland. As part of the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association), their mission is simple – ‘Tennis Opened Up.. by making tennis relevant, accessible, welcoming and enjoyable’. Alexander Kirkwood & Son have been proud suppliers to Tennis Scotland, providing medals and awards.
The Royal Highland Show is an annual event that showcases the best of food, farming and rural life. 194,000 people attended the 2022 show over four days. 2022 was a special one, not only was it the first show since 2019 but it was also the 200th anniversary of the Show.
Every year the Show awards Champion Medals to the best Animal or Exhibit in each section. The medals, produced by Alexander Kirkwood & Son, feature the crest of the society and ‘INSTITUTED MDCCLXXXIV’ (1784). In 2022 the medals were gilt (gold) plated to mark the 200th anniversary.
The relationship between Alexander Kirkwood & Son and the Society is a long one, dating back to at least 1847 – there is a letter from that year from Mr Alex Kirkwood in the Society’s archives. The RHASS is one of our oldest and most valued clients.
The St Rule Trophy is an international women's amateur golf tournament contested over the St Andrews Links. Played annually since 1984, it is 54-hole stroke play over two days on the New and Old Courses.
Past winners include some of the best golfers in the game - Annika Sorenstam and Catriona Matthew. This year’s competition, played in June, was won by Jennifer Saxton from Scotland, with a winning total of 217, 3 shots clear of the chasing pack.
in 2022, Alexander Kirkwood & Son produced new medals for the tournament requiring a new die to be created. The medals were finished in Gold, Silver and Bronze (bronze featured here). The image on the front is of St Rule’s tower, a famous landmark in the St Andrews skyline. The tower lies in the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral but predates the cathedral by at least 100 years. It is believed the tower was part of a church built in the 11th century to hold the relics of St Andrew, brought back to the town by St Rule (also known as St Regulus).
“This isn’t a bubble wrapped school trip, this is a polar expedition”. The Polar Academy, aims to deliver ‘Inspiration through Exploration’. Founded by Craig Mathieson, Explorer in Residence at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, this charitable organisation works with ‘invisible’ 14 to 18 year old Scottish secondary school children who lack self-esteem. Participants are put through a rigorous ten-month training programme before being immersed in the wilds of East Greenland, navigating through some of the world’s remotest terrain for ten days on their very own Arctic Expedition.
This journey of discovery changes the lives of participants and aims to have a wide ranging and positive impact on their communities. On their return, each explorer shares their experiences with their peer groups, speaking to more than 20,000 children in their region. The 2021/22 teams were selected from Stranraer and Bo’Ness Academies – setting off in March of this year. On Sunday 19th June 2022, they celebrated the success of their expedition back in Bo’Ness – each adventurer received a Polar Academy medal produced by Alexander Kirkwood & Son. Huge congratulations to both teams and everyone else who made this trip of a lifetime possible.
Every year, we are very busy in May & June due to School Prizegiving season! We produce 100s of medals, trophies and awards to recognise top students. For some schools we use bespoke dies to strike their medals, which usually feature their school crest or founder. For others, we use our ‘Minerva’ and ‘Lady and the Lamp’ medal dies. The Minerva medal is normally used to reward the ‘Dux’ of the school – the top pupil - and therefore it is cast in Sterling Silver and Hallmarked. The ‘Lady and the Lamp’ medal is used for the ‘Proxime Accessit’, the runner up spot, finished in Bronze. Both medal designs were inspired by history and mythology. Minerva was the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, Knowledge and Education and she is used as a symbol within many crests and logos of learning institutions throughout the world. The Lady and the Lamp medal features a wise woman reading under the light of a lamp.
Congratulations from all of us at Alexander Kirkwood & Son to all the students receiving prizes every year – they are very well deserved!
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