The Austrian Mint has issued the latest release of its "Crowns of the House of Habsburg" Gold Coin Series. Issued beginning on November 9, 2011, the Crown of Saint Wenceslas Gold Proof Coin marks the fourth release of the House of Habsburg Crown series.
Featured on both the obverse and reverse of the coin are designs emblematic of the Crown of Saint Wenceslas, an important piece in the history of Bohemia. Each gold proof coin is struck from .986 fine gold to a diameter of 30 mm with a weight 16 grams.
The Crown of Saint Wenceslas was created in 1347 at the order of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV who was also the eleventh king of Bohemia from the House of Luxembourg. The crown was used for his coronation after which he dedicated it to the patron saint of the country, St. Wenceslas. Upon the king's death, it was bequeathed as a state crown to be used for the coronation of future kings.
Not atypical for similar crowns, the Crown of Saint Wenceslas is particularly ornate and is struck from 21 to 22 karat gold. Adorning the crown are a multitude of rare jewels and other design elements including 19 sapphires, 44 spinels, 1 ruby, 30 emeralds and 20 pearls.
The last time the crown was used for a coronation was in 1836 when Bohemian king Ferdinand V was crowned. Today, the crown is housed along with the other Bohemian Crown Jewelry in a chamber within St. Vitus Cathedral. The chamber is locked by seven different locks with the keys held by seven different political and religious members of the Czech Republic, the city of Prague and the Catholic Church.
The crown along with the rest of the jewels are only displayed every decade for a total of seven days. The last time this occurred was in 2008 to mark the 90th anniversary of Czechoslovak Independence.
Shown on the obverse of the coin is an image of the Crown of Saint Wenceslas as designed by Austrian Mint engraver Herbert Waehner. Obverse inscriptions include "REPUBLIK OESTERREICH," "100 Euros" and "WENZELSKRONE" (crown of Saint Wenceslas).
The reverse includes a depiction of King Rudolf II. Behind the king, historic Charles Bridge is shown along with the cathedral of St. Vitus, where the crown of Saint Wenceslas is stored.
The Austrian Mint has limited the mintage of the gold proof coins to only 30,000 strikes.