Brass Cast and Gold Plated POTC Aztec Medallion (Reference help appreciated)

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willrhami

Member
After failing a $600 lightsaber project that had been my lifeblood for the last 8 months, I wanna work on a completely different project I've never thought of before, or at least not for longer than a moment. I settled on something SUPER out there, but something I think if done right could be absolutely AWESOME. A genuine brass cast and gold plated replica of the cursed Aztec gold medallion from the first Pirates movie, Curse of the Black Pearl.

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I, like probably a lot of others, have always loved this prop, and after I came across an article written by one of the makers of the original prop talking about the design and manufacturing process, I realized I have a pretty straightforward way to get this made that would hopefully be a pretty failsafe way of learning to do this stuff. (Below are shots of the coin taken by the prop maker on the front and back side) [Link to the article he wrote on the props for the film including the medallion: Pirates of the Caribbean Cortés Gold ]

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So, I have a "replica" of the medallion, but as far as I'm concerned, it's barely half of what it needs to be. I bought it at Disneyland a few years ago and while its not bad, its not at all accurate, which is what I am going for in every sense of the word with this prop.

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The front is crisp enough, but things like the eyes are a bit more round than the screen used one, the details around the skull look much more rounded than they should, the color is FAR too dark, the chain and chain attachment points are wrong all the way, and the back side is entirely missing. The Master Replicas one is much better, but I've been looking for one even better than that.

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The lines and grooves are still a bit too undefined and the back feels lumpy and undetailed compared to the screen used one. The only thing I see here being great is the chain. Figuring that part out will be a pain, but that's part of the process, right? After loads of searching, I found someone here who found a 3 in 1 board game that came out along side At Worlds End, far after the Master Replicas medallion was released, that had a checkers game with metal cast pieces of the medallion in it. And let me tell you, they are GREAT in form. you can still find copies of this board game pack around on ebay, and for $50 or so, this is what I want to do. (pics below are the game piece coin gold plaited by RPF member TomVDJ) [Link to the RPF thread of his adventures of getting these gold plaited pieces into the hands of fellow fans: Interest - Pirates: Screen Accurate Gold Plated Aztec Gold Coin ]

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(Comparing unplated piece, to gold plated piece, to Master Replicas at the bottom)
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(edge of game piece)
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(Gold plated piece compared to screen used prop in close up)

So I guess if I wanted that form wast in brass and to do what the production did, I would have to take a mold, pour it in wax, then cast the wax as a wax replacement in brass..? Now, I will need to do a LOT more research before I do my first ever casting, and that obviously includes talking to the place that does casting classes and assisted self operated projects, because I still have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. As of right now, I'm just an excited nerd gathering reference pictures and asking others for their knowledge as well. I will use this thread to document the process if I move forward with it, and that is mostly why I wrote this, but if anyone with the master replica medallion comes across this and has measurements for the chain's overall length and the length of the segments, that would be SUPER helpful. (or the chain next to a ruler maybe?) Thanks for the help, and if you have any advice on the wax molding and casting process, the brass casting process, gold plaiting process, or anything else, any advice or help means the world. Love this community so much and excited to keep you all updated. The nostalgia is so so real with this one, y'all.
 

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eethan

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
this is a cool project and idea and i'll be following it. I hope you'll success and I wish you good luck :)
 

willrhami

Member
Ok, here is what I have learned so far:

I reached out to the original casters of the brass coins, it's been a while with no response, and while one might still come, I don't think it will, which I am totally ok with. The questions I asked were more about where to put a sprue (a term I just learned which refers to the canal that you pour whatever material you're using into that leads into the rest of the mold) and if the coins were cast multiple at a time. Luckily it's not a huge deal as this is stuff that I can find out on my own, but admittedly it would have been cool to hear from the craftspeople themselves. But, the train goes on.

So, I also decided that I may want to make a few different versions of these. There is the basic coin version, the basic medallion version, and what I call the spinning coin version and the spinning medallion version. The "spinning" that I am referring to is two moments in the film where the gold is returned to it's place in the stone chest with the blood of the one who removed it covering the piece. (you can see a picture above on the last post that shows this) The spinning versions have two front sides, or in other words, a fully detailed skull design on both sides. I have to admit, I like this version better. It is only used in these two specific shots in the film, but I just think it's cooler, and I have no idea why. If I could, I would also LOVE to find what their fake blood mixture was and have that on there too.

This may be the nerdiest I've ever gotten about this prop, but I cant help but get giddy when I think about having a full set of coins like that. Only thing is, I'll have to figure out how to cut the back sides off of two game pieces and stick them together for molding. There's probably gonna be a lot of edge clean up too. I've also been considering selling some of these, as I want to fund more projects and I know there must be some people crazy enough to want these too. I have no idea what the price point would be though, but if it's this much work involving brass casting, gold plaiting, intricate custom chain making, and it's very accurate to the film, it might be nice to try and make a small bit to fund future projects. No solid ideas yet, though.

I'm still so lost on the chain. I have NO idea what that's gonna look like to make. I think I might try and find a thread that talks about the Master Replicas medallion and ask for a picture of the chain with a ruler, this community is probably gracious enough to do me a favor like that. I know there are classes near me that would help me understand and build a chain, but unlike the medallion, I'm unsure if the chain could be reproduced the same way, or how to do it if I want to make more than just a couple. Have to figure that out. And what material would it be? Is it brass with gold plate, or is it just brass, or is it all gold? It's a SUPER thin chain, so if it was all gold, it might make sense, but how much would it be to make, then?

I don't quite know what my next steps are, but I think I may want to reach out to the art studio that offers jewelry making, mold making, metal casting, and detail painting classes. Come to them with the project and see what they think about classes I could/should take. Anyways, I'll keep you all updated, and I'll try to keep updating you all on what I learn about the prop or about the processes to get it made.
 

Cbstudios

Well-Known Member
willrhami ask and ye shall receive mate! Imperial and metric! Very VERY keen to see this project progress, as a Jack Sparrow cosplayer, anything Pirates is my jam!
 

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Cbstudios

Well-Known Member
YESSSSS oh my gosh, this is so so helpful, thank you. I'll add this to my reference folder. Do you know the overall length of the chain?
I absolutely do! About 21” or 53cms excluding the hook! If you need any further measurements, don’t hesitate to hit me up!
 

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willrhami

Member
I absolutely do! About 21” or 53cms excluding the hook! If you need any further measurements, don’t hesitate to hit me up!
So so helpful, thanks again! This'll be great, very excited! Hope this'll all work out, cause I NEED one of these things, if it does I need to make a fake drawer bottom to hide them in too, hahahaha!
 

willrhami

Member
So, another small update:

First off, I have decided I want to do updates like this pretty often to hopefully maintain a steady forward momentum, so when I've fund a new piece of the puzzle or learned something cool or new, I can record it here, and keep going. No need to re find, try to remember, or re tread anything. Not to mention, it's also something fun to do, it could help out others, and maybe be entertaining to read, I don't know. Anyways, onto the most recent "discovery"...

So, thanks to the reference pictures of the Master Replicas medallion chain provided by Cbstudios, I was able to get the exact measurements and dimensions of the chain. I then spent like 3 hours trying to figure out how I would make it, using a thin brass rod, making curved indents on both sides and holes on each end to be connected by a basic chain loop, done who knows how many times. It sounded like hell. Then I literally looked up "brass bar jewelry chain" and found the exact one that would work for what I needed... Anyways, let me show you what I'm talking about.

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Screen used medallion coin and chain
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Master Replicas medallion coin and chain
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The chain I found online (Heres the link: Wholesale Bar Chains for Jewelry Making - TierraCast )

I don't know about what other people think, but to me, this looks SPOT ON. The dimensions do perfectly match the chain on the Master Replicas one, which matches the screen used one very very well, which is great and leads me to believe this is a pretty good match, or maybe even an exact one, but I won't say that without any real evidence. To get a 25 foot roll of this chain it's $85, and if I am selling these, that's a good deal, that's enough for a solid run of medallions. But if I'm not, it's probably not a super swell idea to spend that much and only use like, 2 feet of it. The chan is gold plated, but I have no idea if that means it's real gold or that it's just gold like, but there is brass underneath, which I see as the important part.

I saw from a bunch of people saying that over the years their Master Replicas' chains are beginning to turn brown, which makes me think this is either a bad gold plate or just aging brass, and brass can be re polished, but I don't know if a gold plate can. (Something to look into) I'm personally ok with a re polish every 5-10 years, but I wouldn't want the browning to occur then touch it to a polishing wheel and see raw silver or bronze underneath. I would assume the production team used brass as a base for the coins so they could escape the riggers and cost of casting with real gold and if it chipped or scratched, it would still look correct underneath and still match the color a bit. I can only hope that's the same idea this chain follows. Anyway, moving on.

The clasp is a part that could potentially be a bit challenging, but seems somewhat straight forward, not a lot of hidden mechanisms or surprise skills needed, and would probably be hand made by me. (you can see the clasp in the Master Replicas' picture above) I would also potentially like to do a magnetic or friction fit clasp on one of the chains to be able to rip it off like we see several times throughout the movie. I personally think it would be super fun to have that on the spinning medallion version, as in that scene Barbosa rips it off Elizabeth's neck, and everything about that scene just gives me the goosebumps. The speech he gives about restoring the humanity of the crew, the way he rips the medallion off and puts it in her hand, the score building as that happens, and as he lifts her fingers and lets the medallion fall back into the chest we get that GREAT shot of it falling, it's iconic. Sorry, moving on. I also found the material I might want to cast the coins out of.

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So, this is jewelers manganese bronze, and it looks VERY close to gold from what I can tell. I have been thinking about wether or not to do gold plating on the coins like they did with the screen used props, because not only is it somewhat expensive, but it feels like it could go wrong. There are a ton of steep drop offs and grooves all over this thing, and I really would love to keep those details clear and promenade while also getting the same look as gold. Where I feel some replica versions of this coin have failed is the way they rounded many of the lines, edges, and grooves on the original prop. The best part of the prop, and what I think was intended by the production designers, was that every harsh line and every geometric choice, even the chain, looks like or reminds you of a bone. I really want to keep that intact as much as possible, and if gold plaiting takes away from that, I would potentially leave it off. (There's a picture of the screen used prop below to better show what I mean.)

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The the screen used coins also have these gorgeous granular casting marks all over that I fear would be lost if the gold plating was put over it, but again, I know absolutely nothing about this stuff, so I could be completely wrong. I feel like there is gong to be a LOT of testing and iteration done with this thing, between gold plated vs raw, medallions vs coins, standard coins vs spinning versions, and hook and loop clasps vs break away clasps. And there are different iterations between those as well, so... It's gonna be strange, and I think I'll possibly end up with more than a few of these things. Ok, I emailed the art school that has the bronze foundry and mold making classes about a consult relating to this project, we'll see if they get back sometime soon. Until next time!
 

Utinni

Sr Member
I was extremely lucky to have a friend in the prop industry that knew the original coin maker and sold a few from them close after release of the first movie. They were cast and aged like the screen used coin by the original maker. Some of the patina has rubbed off on the front of the coin over the years. The chain came from a guy here on the RPF 15+ years ago that did a limited run. I was also in jewelry school around the same time and in molding class I molded it and cast several sterling silver coins for some friends, what was neat was they ended up just about 1oz each in sterling silver! I only have one silver one left.

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Jeff
 

Cbstudios

Well-Known Member
That chain you've found looks pretty spot on dude! I can confirm the chain on the MR piece is plated, and the plating on my coin and chain is breaking down hardcore, giving that aformentioned browning
 

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willrhami

Member
I was extremely lucky to have a friend in the prop industry that knew the original coin maker and sold a few from them close after release of the first movie. They were cast and aged like the screen used coin by the original maker. Some of the patina has rubbed off on the front of the coin over the years. The chain came from a guy here on the RPF 15+ years ago that did a limited run. I was also in jewelry school around the same time and in molding class I molded it and cast several sterling silver coins for some friends, what was neat was they ended up just about 1oz each in sterling silver! I only have one silver one left.

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Jeff
Wow, that’s an incredible piece of work, I’m super impressed. Very well done, thanks for sharing. It’s good to see what others have done with the same basic idea to see how I can build off that and learn from it. Thanks again!

That chain you've found looks pretty spot on dude! I can confirm the chain on the MR piece is plated, and the plating on my coin and chain is breaking down hardcore, giving that aformentioned browning
Good to know. It’s a tricky bet deciding what to do, either make it out of solid brass and take DAYS to assemble, or have to replace it every 10-20 years… depends, I guess… good to get the confirmation on the Master Replicas version, thank you
 

Petronepaytonsc

New Member
I've been interested in this piece myself, would be nice to know what,if any coins have lineage to the original molds/castings.
Looking good research wise so far!
 

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willrhami

Member
I have been considering it for sure. I have a few projects I've been considering that would be WAY cooler in actual brass, and more and more im thinking of trying to make my own mini forge. The only real thing id have to overcome is the detail on the piece, its really advanced stuff, that's mostly my worry there. With something so small I'd definitely need to at least take a class on mold making for metal castings and ask about that particular piece. We'll see
 

Boba Debt

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I have been considering it for sure. I have a few projects I've been considering that would be WAY cooler in actual brass, and more and more im thinking of trying to make my own mini forge. The only real thing id have to overcome is the detail on the piece, its really advanced stuff, that's mostly my worry there. With something so small I'd definitely need to at least take a class on mold making for metal castings and ask about that particular piece. We'll see


I considered making a forge, but ultimately bought one

You save a little money making it yourself but lose a lot of money in the form of burn efficiency

Mold making is a lot easier with today’s 3-d printer tech
 

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