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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 22, May 29, 2011, Article 12

DICK JOHNSON ON PHALERISTICS AND MEDAL TERMINOLOGY

As Medallic Art Corporate Historian, Dick Johnson regularly produces reports for company management on medallic history and terminology. On the occasion of their parent firm's acquisition of medal maker Graco, Dick wrote a report on phaleristics -" orders, decorations and medals (the kind that are worn)". He kindly sent me a copy and here is a short excerpt. -Editor

Because of the royal distinctions of some orders often the most distinct, elaborate, jewel encrusted medallic items worn by members of a highly select group these are the most important, the top of the pyramid.

There are also orders of chivalry which go back in history to knights in armor protecting fair maidens. An "order" is both the name of the group as well as the medallic item to be worn (and these include collars worn over the head with an elaborate pendant medal to rest on the chest). These orders were often made by royal jewelers and had separate classes, sometimes as many as twelve classes from the king down to the lowest knight, each class made of more important size, composition or jewels than those of lower class. [We have none of these in America, we are more democratic.]

Below orders are the decorations medallic items awarded for gallantry or meritorious service . These can be elaborate, but not as important as orders, and are always distinguished by shape, never round. Because: the medals of a class below decorations are usually round. An example would be campaign medals those medals hung from a ribbon drape awarded to all who participated in a military or naval campaign.

Since all the medals described above are intended to be worn, there are prescribed rules for the proper wearing of these medallic items on uniforms, formal and civilian attire. Phalerists have come up with a term for all medals that are not worn table medals medals that just lie on the you get the idea.

Resources.

The source for the best terms in the field are, obviously, from the Institute of Heraldry. They are very knowledgeable, and the specification sheets for individual medals are precise and identify the proper term for every part.

The best printed glossary in the field was compiled by Alexander John Laslo (1940-2004) who was editor of the official publication of the Orders, Medals Society of America. Under his editorial guidance the journal transformed from black-and-white to full color.

Laslo (Alexander J.) A Glossary of Terms Used in Phaleristics The Science, Study, and Collecting of The Insignia of Orders, Decorations and Medals. Albuquerque NM: Dorado Publishing (1995) 58 pages, illustrated.

I don't recall having heard the term "phaleristics" before. The Laslo work sounds like a great overview of the topic, so I wanted to include it here for bibliophiles and researchers. -Editor


Wayne Homren, Editor

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