The terminology and technicalities associated with medals and ribbons are outlined here, including advice on the maintenance, security and storage of medals.
- Parts of a Medal
- Medal Naming
- Medal Mounting
- Replacement Medals
- Safeguarding Medals
- Medal Maintenance & Storage
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- Medal – For the purposes of this page “medal” means any medal and ribbon designed to be suspended from a medal brooch bar, whether full-size or miniature, designed for official military and civil use. Medals in the past were made from bronze, silver, copper, brass, lead or amalgams of the foregoing. Modern medals are one of three types – Silver (mainly Long Service awards); Rhodium plated (most modern campaign medals, e.g. NZ Operational Service Medal, East Timor medal) and Bronze (e. g. the NZ General Service Medals, NZ Defence Service Medal)
- Group – a medal group refers to four or more medals suspended from the same brooch bar, a group being greater than a single, a pair or trio of medals worn together.
- Split Group – one or more medals are missing from the group.
- Full-size – medals as issued, designed for day wear.
- Miniature – smaller representations of full-size medals designed to be worn with formal evening attire.
- Official – a medal of an officially approved design and manufacture authorised for wearing that is included in the NZ Order of Wear.
- Original – an official medal awarded first issued to the entitled recipient, named or un-named.
- Genuine – any medal manufactured by an authorised military contractor for the purpose of official issue.
- Replacement / Duplicate – a medal subsequently approved and issued to replace a lost, stolen or destroyed medal. New Zealand Duplicate medals are impressed with the letter (D) indicating that it is an officially authorised and issued replacement.
- Replica/Copy – a medal from a commercial medal manufacturer or trader who produces Replica / Copy medals of the originals, for the purposes of profit. Generally of lesser quality and less expensive than its officially issued counterpart.
- Commemorative – a medal produced to commemorate an event or anniversary, whether authorised or not, by a commercial or private organisation for the purpose of profit. Commemorative medals generally require the owner to pay for it.
- Counterfeit/Fake – a medal (genuine or replica) that has been altered in some way, e. g. artificially aged, skimmed (original name removed), re-named or modified for the purposes of falsely representing it be a genuine/original medal.
WW1 medal ‘nicknames’
The issue of First World War service medals in the 1920’s coincided with a popular British comic strip in the Daily Mirror newspaper. The cartoons featured PIP the dog, SQUEAK the penguin and WILFRED the rabbit. Soon the three main medals (the 1914 or 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal) were nicknamed ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred‘. When only the British War and Victory Medals were worn together, they were named ‘Mutt and Jeff‘ after another pair of newspaper cartoon characters.
2. Parts of a medal
- Obverse refers to the face (front) of a medal, many of which depict a bust of the Sovereign (with or without Crown/Coronet), a Royal Cypher or a Coat of Arms. When worn, the Obverse of a medal is at all times visible to the viewer.
- Reverse refers to back or rear side of a medal which may be decorated, engraved or blank.
- Edge of a medal is the 4 mm flat surface around the circumference of a medal upon which naming details can be found.
- Rim of a medal is the raised part of a medal’s Edge that prevents damage to the face of the medal when laid flat.
- Claw / Clip is the name given, depending on style, to the metal piece affixed to the top edge of a medal that provide the link between the medal and means of ribbon suspension, be that at bar, ring etc.
- Ribbon or Riband? – the piece of coloured fabric from which a medal is suspended. Manufactured originally from silk, this has been largely replaced by man-made materials such as polyester and poly-cottons which are stronger, colour-fast and age well (negligible fading). Stick with term RIBBON as ‘Riband’ has alternate meanings that involve ship building and the parts of a palisade fence.
- Watered Ribbon– colours are described as ‘watered’ when each colour merges into the edges of its adjoining colours along its entire length, e. g. 1914 and 1914/15 Stars, Victory Medal and Atlantic Star.
- Ribbon Bow – an alternate style of medal suspension where the ribbon is configure as a bow with/without fluted tails, reserved for decorations awarded to women.
- Ribbon Bar – the ribbon bar is a small metal bar approximately 12 mm long and the width of the ribbon, attached to which is a medal ribbon. worn usually on a uniform, the ribbon bar is worn when the medal is not. Both are never worn together.
- Ribbon Brooch Bar, Buckle – the ribbon brooch is attached to the top of a medal’s suspension ribbon and which has a pin attached to the rear in order to attach the medal to clothing. A Buckle was an ornate metal, silver or gold suspender similar in shape to a shoe buckle by which medals were attached to clothing. Rarely seen these days, these were largely a 19th century or earlier item, often of personal design, used to attach a medal to clothing.
- Ribbon Suspender or Suspension Bar / Ring – that part of the medal attached to the Claw/Clip, through which the medal ribbon passes and thereby linking the medal to the ribbon and brooch.
- Clasp – a Clasp is a metal plate, slightly wider than the medal ribbon, used to denote a particular campaign, operation or significant date with the details embossed on the plate. Most Clasps are designed to be permanently fixed to a medal by means of “ears” at either end of the Clasp with which to attach it to either the medal’s ribbon suspender or to an existing Clasp, thereby forming ladder-like rungs through which the medal ribbon passes. Some Clasps were/are made without “ears” and designed to be sewn directly onto the ribbon. WW2 examples are the campaign Stars which had a series of Clasps that could be worn in deference to the award of a second medal for a similar operation or region, e. g. Battle of Britain, Bomber Command, France & Germany etc. Contemporary examples of Clasps include East Timor, the NATO medals and many of the United Nations medals. Clasps are normally positioned on a medal ribbon at the mid-point of the length. These may need to be staggered to accommodate multiple Clasps when medals are overlapped during mounting. Sew-on Clasps are a convenient space saving alternative that prevent ugly distortion of a medal group which occurs when multiple medals with permanently fixed Clasps (those with “ears”) are Court mounted. Sew-on Clasps permit the Clasp to be seen and the ribbons overlapped whilst remaining relatively flat against each other.
- Bar – the term BAR is used to denote a second or subsequent award of the same medal where it is both impractical and necessary to wear a second or even third identical medal to represent a subsequent award. Most often it is used in connection with gallantry, bravery or long service awards, i. e. the holder of the Victoria Cross, NZ Gallantry Star, NZ Bravery Medal etc is recognised for a second and equivalent act. In the case of Long Service awards, a BAR indicates a second qualifying period of service has been completed entitling the person to a second award of the medal. Bars generally take the form of a metal plate approx 38 mm x 7 mm shaped to form an endless loop, designed to slip over a medal ribbon and slid down to a central position before mounting.
- Bars do not carry any embossed wording and are most often characterised with either a decorated pattern of flora (laurel leaves, ferns, acorns etc) across the entire bar, or are a polished plain bar that may have a central device affixed, e. g. a crown, crest, emblem or similar. For awards that have post nominal letters, when a Bar for example is awarded for a gallantry medal, in written form the second award is acknowledged by the placement of an Asterisk* after the post nominal letters of the award, e. g. NZGS* The letters of an award, represent the FIRST award; the first Asterisk represents the SECOND award and so on.
- Device – the name given to any small metal emblem attached to a medal ribbon and/or the ribbon bar only. Devices are most often used to denote a gallantry award (VC, NZSG) or an honourable mention for service (Mention in Dispatches (MiD, Commendation for Brave Conduct or Valuable Service in the Air), the award of a BAR for some medals, multiple Tours of Duty to the same operation, or a second / subsequent number of years of qualifying service (long service awards). A common device seen today on many UN medal ribbons are Numerals which denote a second of subsequent Tour of Duty for which the medal has already been awarded.
- Medals are worn in a single row suspended from a medal brooch bar with pin for attachment to clothing.
- Veteran men and women (not in uniform) wear their medals in same fashion. If a Ribbon Bow decoration is worn, it is placed immediately above a medal brooch bar if worn.
- The maximum width of a medal brooch bar with full-size medals attached, should be no greater than 16 cm in width (14.5 cm for miniatures), with the medals overlapped so as to be evenly spaced on the brooch bar.
- The length of a medal ribbon used to suspend a medal, is cut/mounted so that the distance from the top of the ribbon to the bottom of each medal measures 9.5 cm for full-size medals (5 cm for miniatures). Adjustments are necessary to accommodate medal design. Medal ribbon width and quality can also vary with manufacturers.
- Colours of medal ribbons can represent many things. The use of Navy Blue, Red and Sky Blue to represent the three military services is the most common. National colours of participant nations, or some other factor unique to an operation, the geography or climate. Some of the WW2 Stars were indicative of night bombing, searchlights, blackout, England’s green lands, the sea, firestorms etc
- Medal ribbon bar – a row of ribbons of specified length (approx 5 mm) fixed side by side (not overlapping) to a ribbon bar. The bar is worn in uniform pinned to the cloth. Ribbon bars are NOT worn when medals are worn. It is not normal to wear a ribbon bar when in civilian attire.
- Four medal ribbons per row (the NZDF has altered its rule to “three” ribbons to accommodate both arm swing and weapons drill) is the maximum before an additional row is started immediately above.
- When medal ribbons alone are worn, the highest ranked award is worn closest to the centre of the chest; any single ribbon or incomplete row of 2, 3 or 4 ribbons are placed centrally above the top row of ribbons.
- When a medal ribbon bar is worn, medals are NOT worn.
3. Medal naming
Medals awarded in the 19th and very early years of the 20th Centuries were far fewer than are awarded today, most being awarded to soldiers. The Waterloo Medal of 1815 was the first British medal awarded to all participants irrespective of rank, and was also the first medal that was universally named to each soldier. The sequence of naming was: First and Last name, Rank, Unit.
Impressed – Waterloo Medals were impressed, meaning a hand operated pressing device was used to force a metal boss bearing a letter, name or simple decoration, into the edge of the medal – hence the word “embossed.” Impressions were often blackened to highlight the detail. Some later medals of the more obscure campaigns had letters and numbers individual impressed by hammer and boss rendering the finished product with numerous miss-aligned characters and a variety of rank and unit abbreviations being very left to the devices of the tradesman.
Engraved – Many of the earlier named medals were engraved by jewellers or other artisans contracted for the purpose. Military contracted jewellers used a prescribed style of font which varied in style – Serif, San Serif, Script etc. The standard details included the soldier’s service number, rank, initials, last name and regiment however there was no particular standard of either font, layout or abbreviations used, particularly when it came to naming the soldier’s unit. A number of British Army units have quite extensive unit titles that reflect their long history over a number of centuries. Realistically these had to be pared down to something that would easily fit on the edge of a medal.
Standardisation – By the time medals for First World War service were issued in the 1920s (1914 Star, 1914/15 Star, British War Medal 1914/20, Victory Medal and Mercantile Marine War Medal), British medals had a standardised sequence of naming, font and abbreviations. All medals were issued in bulk as blanks to participating nations where they were then impressed in a hand operated naming press devised for the purpose, before being issue to troops. The results were patchy with miss-aligned names and characters reflecting an unrefined process that was not rectified until automation produced a consistent result. A recipient’s medal group might also show a variety of ranks on different medals. The rank impressed in the naming represents the rank that was held at the time the person qualified for the medal.
The naming of Mercantile Marine War Medals was different again. Names consisted of only a recipient’s first and last names, or alternatively, first initial – last name, or first name – initial – last name. This could be a matter of choice, whilst no provision was made to include mercantile service rank or appointment titles, not even for a ship’s Master (Captain).
Second World War – Medals awarded for first and second world war service were distributed from the UK as blanks (un-named) to participating allied nations of the Empire. After the first war, two medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal) were the most prolifically issued of the five available, around 6 million of each. After WW2 the number of medals a person could routinely qualify for was between four and five. Once in receipt of the medals, each country had the responsibility for naming their medals before issue (if they so wished). All WW1 medals were named before issue to soldiers. The medals awarded for WW2 service were distributed in the same manner however NZ and UK were the only countries in the Empire who chose NOT to name their medals before issue. This was a short-sighted decision driven by perceived savings from multiple medal issues to each person, unlike WW1 from which each person generally only received two or three medals.
Un-named and unclaimed
The perceived indifference of the Government to both the person’s voluntary service for a war that had also cost many thousands of NZ lives, angered many Veterans who considered it an insult from an ungrateful Prime Minister and Government. What made the situation even worse was that Veterans were required to apply for their medals, unlike those who returned from WW1 who had their medals not only named but automatically posted to them. The Government held firm to their contentious decision. The anger and disgust among the returned men was so deep-seated that many rejected their medals altogether and went to their grave having never claimed them. The year 2020 continued to highlight the inadequacies of the WW2 decision. A significant cultural consideration that had been completely overlooked caused a large number Maori soldiers from the Hawkes Bay / East Coast iwi to not apply for their medal entitlements after the war. Only in 2021 – 75 years after the fact – was this situation finally rectified with the issue of medals to the surviving family members.
The impact of the poor management of Second World War medals has and will never go away, not at least until the last Veteran is dead. The majority are now deceased however it is their descendant families who are starting to query the medal entitlements of their ancestor’s and medals. The power of the internet is fuelling both access and knowledge of their family’s military service. With this invariably comes the questions of medals and for some the revelation of an entitlement that has not been claimed!
Medals in waiting …
As a result of the foregoing including numerous individual circumstances that have resulted in medals not being claimed, such as the lack of known descendant at the time, there remains a large number of Second World War medals yet to be claimed. The Gallipoli Landings in April 1915 inspired the creation of the Anzac Commemorative Medallion, commonly referred to as the Gallipoli Medallion. This was produced as a joint Australian and New Zealand government initiative to recognise the contribution and sacrifices Gallipoli Veterans had made. Its production coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the Anzac Landings in April 1915, and became available upon application to NZ Veterans from August 1967. A number of medallions remain unclaimed as many of the soldiers who survived Gallipoli and returned to New Zealand unfortunately died prior to the medallion being produced. It is now up to descendants to do their research and submit a claim if they believe an entitlement exists.
Current naming practice
Since 1946, most official New Zealand medals issued to uniformed personnel and citizens are named before presentation. Medal naming for military personnel continued continues to be the domain of Personnel Archives & Medals (PAM) at Trentham. Number, rank, initials and last name remain the standard configuration as is the font used – a Block Capital style ensures naming clarity, regularity and quality. The move now is towards Laser Etching although some official medals/decorations will remain un-named by design such as those of limited circulation sponsored by the State, e. g. New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal and the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993. Most official foreign awards are issued un-named as are all United Nations service medals.
4. Medal mounting
Full-size and Miniature medals are mounted on a single brooch bar in one of two styles; the choice of style when no longer in uniform is up to the individual. Men and women in uniform conform to wearing medals on a single brooch bar. Civilian females awarded a state honour will normally have the medal presented as a ‘Ribbon Bow’, with or without ‘tails.’
Medals are overlapped where necessary with the ribbon of each partially visible and running down behind the medal. The medals are wired to the mounting board at the Claw to avoid ‘clinking’ or excessive damage when worn. The only disadvantage of this mounting method is the Reverse is partially obscured so cannot be read or seen.
SWING or FREE Style
Medals are overlapped as necessary however swing freely from the brooch bar as issued. The medals are not restrained from ‘clinking’ together which can result in damage, or the loose medals being inadvertently obstructed or torn from clothing .
- Medals awarded up to and including WW2 were traditionally worn ‘swing/free’ style – ‘court’ style mounting was reserved for those required to attend (the Royal) Court.
- Traditionally R.N. and R.N.Z.N. personnel wore their medals mounted in the ‘swing/free’ style as a point of difference (still permitted) however R.N.Z.N. personnel while still serving conform to NZDF guidance, most commonly ‘court’ style in order to minimise damage or causing obstruction when performing weapons drills. Some ex-R.N.Z.N. personnel return their medals to ‘swing/free’ style mounting after release from military service.
- With the exception of those in the Defence Forces and other Crown uniformed services, the style of medal mounting style is the owner’s choice.
RIBBON BOW (ladies only)
Ribbon Bow awards, e. g. QSO, QSM, RRC 1st Class, NZ Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993 etc, come in both full size and miniature arrangements, with or without ‘TAILS’. A Ribbon Bow award is worn in the same position as standard medals are, on the left chest. On occasions when a women has both a Ribbon Bow award (or two) and a standard medal (or two), e. g. Service Medal of St John, Public Service Medal etc, the two types can be worn (mounted) together as shown below. Should an ex-service woman for instance have at lease four or more standard medals on a medal brooch bar, as well as a Ribbon Bow award, it is appropriate to wear the Ribbon Bow award above the medal brooch bar. A medal mounting specialist will determine the best arrangement according to the mix of awards you have.
- A professional medal mounting service will NOT mount unofficial medals with official awards. If they are prepared to do this because they want your money, you should reconsider and look for a reputable service.
- MRNZ can advise you of reputable medal mounting services nearest your area who can also re-ribbon, replace and repair medals.
5. Replacement medals
Original vs Replica
- Official replacement medals have usually been issued whilst the service person is still serving. These can be identified by the naming on the edge which will include (D) for Duplicate. Other countries use variations on this theme, e.g. “R” for Replacement. Should you ever need to replace a medal that is missing from your medal rack, obtaining a replacement is easy. Since the Ministry of Defence only replaced medals during the lifetime of WW1 servicemen, and will only replace the medals of a service person who is still serving, replacement of any lost or stolen medals is at the owners expense.
- Original contemporary issue medals of NZDF quality can be sourced from the NZDF supplier in Singapore. Name engraving (or laser), mounting or re-mounting is an additional expense to the buyer. There are also a few reputable suppliers of quality replacement medals and ribbons in the UK. I urge you to seek the advice of professionals in this field before committing to a purchase.
- Replica medals are also available for those requiring a less than NZDF quality medal replacement. Quality varies vastly and is dependant on the source of both medals and ribbons. To avoid disappointment, I urge you to seek professional advice before buying, particularly of medal ribbons as these vary in both quality and colour to a much greater degree than the medals.
6. Safeguarding medals
SNAP – photograph your medals, both sides and the naming. These are particularly useful for insurance purposes or to give to police in the event of loss or theft. It also helps MRNZ and other like agencies to advertise, identify and prove ownership of your medals if found.
SECURE – when wearing the originals, ensure they are firmly attached to the medal bar, securely pinned to your clothing and that you keep a close eye on them at all times. Attaching a safety chain to the brooch bar is also a very good idea. Lock your medals away when you get home!
INSURE – old and valuable family medals should be insured separately. Recovering some monetary value if lost or stolen is better than FREE total and permanent loss.
‘Five-finger Discounters’ …
At any event where medals are worn, particularly large gatherings such as Anzac Day, Armistice Day, a commemorative church service, a veteran’s funeral and other military occasions, there are always persons interested in the medals that are being worn. Original (incl current) old and rare medals such as from the Crimean or European/Asian 19th Century wars, Boer War and First World War, together with those that are highly collectable and valuable, such as gallantry or meritorious service medals are of particular interest to the ‘five-finger discounter’ … the medal Thief!
While an opportunist thief will seize any unattended medals, a ‘professional’ or practised thief is in a league of their own. These people are characterised by showing inordinate interest in what medals you (or someone else) are wearing, and particularly if your group is uncommon, unique or bears a gallantry medal. Occasionally they will unwittingly identify themselves by direct questioning about your or someone else’s medals. They may try to engage you with small-talk whilst their eyes fixate on your medal rack, or furtively follow your movements about the room.
Play it safe: either keep your medals on, or remove them from public view as soon as you are able.
Children and medals
Watch your children wearing medals! Family medals given to unsupervised children (e. g. on your Boy Scout, Cub, Guide, Brownie or a child in ordinary civilian clothing) to wear on occasions such as an Anzac Day or Armistice Day parade are particularly susceptible to losing medals, or having them stolen from an opportunist or determined thief. I have seen children on various occasions wearing medal groups with a Distinguished Conduct Medal, a Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, another with a Military Medal and British Empire Medal group, playing with other children whilst climbing trees and generally doing what kids do. Parents can be oblivious to where their kids are or what they might be doing while attending the ‘after-match’ function. It is all too easy for valuable or irreplaceable medals in these circumstances to be lost, or even stolen. If you value the medals you give your kids to wear, watch them and remove the medals as soon as the official part of the occasion is over or, …. give them Replicas to wear.
Security of medals at home
The overt display of your family medals at home (e.g. a framed wall display) is a personal choice however do consider the impact of passive ‘advertising’ to non-family visitors, tradesmen and the like who may come into your home, and the potential for a future theft. Opportunist as well as ‘steal to order’ thieves can be found in every community. These people are generally are not your cat-burglar type who will break into your house and steal anything and everything of value, particularly your treasured family medals that have been left unsecured on the table in the kitchen. This type of thief knows the value of medals and will often know where medals can be accessed easily, such as those invitingly hung on a wall in the family home that can be clearly seen through a convenient window.
Medal loss and recovery
Original medals which have been lost, stolen or sold are rarely recovered. Original named medals that have been lost, recovered and reunited with descendants is a relatively rare event since serious collectors (or profiteering opportunists!) tend to snap these up as soon as they surface on the open market (internet). Some collectors are unconcerned where their medals have come from if they have a particular need in their collection.
If you locate, or are aware of the location of medals that were missing from your family, being in the possession of another person or organisation, you have little chance of recovery, unless: they were stolen and the theft was reported to the Police at the time the medals were taken. Should this situation arise, tell the Police immediately and they will assess what, if any, action can be taken.
If your medals were not NAMED, you have next to no chance of proving ownership, even in the unlikely even medals are found. If you follow the PREVENTION advice at the top of this section, you may just have a fighting chance of recovery.
>>>> Your inattention or poor personal security of your medals could result in a lifetime of anguish and regret – know where they are at all times and secure them when not in use.
SNAP ~ SECURE ~ INSURE
7. Medal maintenance & storage
Medals should always be treated with respect, be safeguarded and maintained in a clean but ORIGINAL condition, particularly old medals. Condition is reflective of a medal’s history (much like the patina of an antique) and should be maintained at all costs if you value their history.
NEVER clean medals with a metal polish of any type! This will degrade the surface and remove any protective coating that has been applied. Once started it will also necessitate continual upkeep. Professionally mounted medals have treated surfaces to remove the necessity for polishing. The majority of medals can be cleaned by the following method:
- To Clean: Use plain warm water to dampen a soft cloth ~ clean the medal surfaces of dirt, rain spots etc. Take care not to wet the ribbon as your cloth may discolour these.
- Dry medals with absorbent paper towel if required ~ buff with soft, dry cloth such as fleecy track suit material. Stiff or new cotton/polyester/rayon type materials may scratch any mirror polished surface such as the NZ Operational Service Medal.
If your medals need more attention than the above cleaning can resolve, consider first what the medal is made of and / or seek professional advice.
Silver is a soft metal that will tarnish to black if not maintained, or the surface is not treated by a professional medal mounter. Very light polishing with a silver impregnated polishing cloth is recommended. If it requires anything stronger to remove stubborn spots etc, a commercial silver dip solution will not do any appreciable damage as long as the instructions are followed. Sonic cleaning is another option but best left to a jeweller.
Silver/Nickle Plate & Cupro-nickle
Silver coloured medals manufactured between the 1930s and mid-1960s can be a mix of the above which generally will remain shiny for much longer than pure silver. Use only a proprietary impregnated polishing cloth designed on these metals. There are ways to treat the surfaces to prolong the new appearance but this is best left to a professionals to do
More modern silver coloured medals from the 1970s onward have surfaces of high quality rhodium plate. The rhodium plate gives the medal its ‘mirror’ bright finish which requires very little maintenance. Remove any fouling with a warm, damp cloth and buff dry with a soft cloth. Be aware the ‘mirror’ finish surface on these is very susceptible to scratching.
Bronze medals such as the WW1 1914 “Mons” Star, 1914/15 Star, the WW2 campaign Stars, UN medals and NZ General Service medals since 1999, are not designed to be polished! These should be left to age naturally which will give them their characteristic dark coloured patina. To clean, remove any surface dirt/stains with warm water and a buff dry.
The WW1 Victory Medal is also made of Bronze coated with a ‘gold wash’ to give it its characteristic shiny gold colour. The ‘gold wash’ is VERY THIN and easily removed by using metal polish, or even rubbing too vigorously with an silver polish impregnated cloth. To clean these medals, again, use only warm water to remove dirt and rain spots. Pat dry with paper kitchen towel and buff with a soft, dry cloth. Failure to do this can quickly lead to pitting or corrosion of the surface protection, or if left unattended for some weeks, verdigris (green corrosion) spots may develop, particularly on bronze medals. Stubborn stains may need careful use of a polish impregnated cloth – proceed with care!
If unsure what to do, seek the advice of a professional
as any damage you might do may be irreversible.
Keep medal ribbons in good repair and store them in a purpose built container. There are many commercial examples that can be bought on-line or you could make one yourself. Using tins is not a good idea since condensation can form on the inside of the metal as heat and cold conditions change around it. Plastic boxes with snap shut seals are fine for short term storage or transportation however, remember they are not fire proof.
Always dry medals off if they have been dampened by rain and give them a light buff with a soft, dry cloth before replacing in a storage box. Keep them wrapped in tissue or a paper kitchen towel and store in a warm, dry place (the hot water cylinder cupboard or linen press is ideal), under lock and key is even better.
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