Photographs of men in the mid to late 19th century often show that one of the fobs that they attached to their watch was a medal. These medals ranged from simple disks to ornately decorated items with intricate mounts. They might be a club membership medal, a masonic symbol, a sporting medal or a WWI ‘tribute’ medal.

1920 silver medal (2nd prize in Girl’s Song category at the Dubbo Eisteddford, under 16 years).

You will see these pieces described as medallions or medals. A medal is defined as ‘a piece of metal … bearing some design or inscription, struck or cast usually in commemoration of an event or as a reward of merit’ (Chambers Dictionary, 13th edition). Medals were often in the shape of a coin but could also be in the shape of a shield or a Maltese cross. A medallion is really just a medal worn as an item of jewellery.

Antique gold medal

The medals I have photographed here come from around 1910 to the 1930s. Some are blank while others indicate the reason they were created. The silver one for instance was awarded to the girl who came second in the Girl’s Song category at the Dubbo Eisteddford, for under 16 year olds. The gold medal above is also Australian, from the 1930s. There is a space for initials but it is blank.

Antique 9ct medal with silver plaque

Most of the medals I have that have been engraved have been for sporting events. They are made of either sterling silver, 9ct gold or sterling silver with a gold overlay shield on the front. However, there are numerous varieties of medals available for sale that are older, heavier and more ornate. All, though, look quite good attached to a neck chain along with other fobs.