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Modulated Relief

Modulated Relief.  The rise and fall of three-dimension sculptural surface; the total surface planes and curvatures forming a coin or medal design. Modulated relief is created during the step of modeling a design. It is formed by adding material, or carving it away, the function of modeling. The purpose of the model – irrespective of its media, clay, wax, plaster, wood, whatever, or its size – is to convey a surface to a manufacturer who will render this surface, usually by reduction, into a die or mold which to reproduce the coin or medal.

Containing the undulating relief that forms the design, devices and lettering, modulated relief is the surface of the model or pattern, its three-dimensionality gives the object its configuration and shape. It is the warp and wave of the design, or to permit a further alliteration, it is a “configuration of contours.” This is the bas-relief design that is reproduced by pantographic reduction or copied by hand engraving or forming the pattern to be replicated in some manner to create the end product or object.

(The author began using this term in 1974 and has continued to do so in his writings ever since. The term so aptly describes the exact meaning indicated. It can be applied to model, pattern, die – the struck or cast piece – that is instantly recognizable by any viewer or reader.)

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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