I wanted a gold coin design for Powers of Two, something that looked timeless and, unlike real ancient coins, could be stacked. For the design, I was greatly inspired by the description of the chrisos given to Severian at the beginning of The Book of The New Sun: the autarch’s face in profile on the front, and a flying ship on the back.
As I am not much of an artist, I still needed more inspiration. The profile on my chrisos is actually based on statues of Antinoos, a greek prince of Rome in Egyptian headdress: suitably cosmopolitan, and somewhat androgynous in appearance. This choice of subject also gave the opportunity to include hieroglyphs, which look suitably alien to modern readers. The ones on the right are copied from an artifact dedicated to Antinoos, the Barberini obelisk that now stands in Rome. In English they mean roughly “Lord Osiris-Antinoos”, according to Erman, Grimm and Grenier. With this vertical text on the right side of the profile, I needed some symbols on the left as well, for balance. I chose the ankh, the djed, and the was, three symbols which were often associated with Osiris.
The obverse side, at first glance, could be mistaken for an alien spaceship against a field of stars. But if you look closely, you can see that it could also be an Egyptian ship, reflected on mirror-calm water surface. The stars in the background are (of course) from the obsolete constellation Antinous, how it might look from the ground in Northern Africa, looking towards west.
For the renders, in blender cycles, I used the interference OSL shader written by prutser. As input it takes actual measured values of the complex index of refraction of a physical material, acquired from thin foils similar to what Faraday used. For the render above and in Powers of Two, I used pure gold with no interference layer, with just some procedurally generated scratches. As bonus here are two renders of the same coin with other IOR values, and with a varying interference layer on top, representing patina or dirt. They are meant to look like tarnished silver and copper (perhaps asimi and aes in Gene Wolfe’s terminology?).