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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Condition of Medals and Death Plaques


Icox67

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I guess this forum is as good as any to ask the question, as I have seen some previous posts on campaign medals...

Being in the possession of both my grandparents WW1 medals, and two death plaques for great uncles (no medals for them sadly), I was wondering if anyone knew how best to clean them up so that they could be put in a presentation frame...

Without damaging them, is there particular chemicals that can be used to clean up the Death Plaques (for example) and,

With regards to the medal ribbons, can these be replaced, or would that make the medals lose some of their authenticity / originality (maybe thats more of an opinion topic).

I'd be happy to hear any thoughts. I know the death plaques were cleaned up once before, with a lot of elbow grease, with mixed patchy results (and I'm not so sure they sjould be bright and shiny in any event).

Thanks.

Iain

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Hi Iain,

Initially proceed with caution. The first step is to ascertain as to whether or not the medals are in original(as new)condition, ie have they been previously cleaned? You may be able to tell if there are traces of metal polish?

The Memorial Plaques should have a matt/dull bronze finish, this has obviously been removed. If they are very shiny then there is a good chance that some of the detail may have been worn away by regular cleaning with brasso or suchlike. Unfortunately if this is the case then probably the best way is to clean again (carefully) with a similar cleaner and then allow them to tone down--this may take several months.

The medals, if showing signs of having been cleaned previously, are better to be cleaned with warm water and a soft tooth brush, this will remove all the old polish and any dirt which has adhered to the surface of the medals.

The ribbons can be replaced with new, not very good, modern ones, however if the originals are not frayed but simply dirty then it is possible to carefully wash and iron them.

Please ask further and if possible post some pictures on here to show the condition of the medals/ribbons and plaques.

Hope this helps,

Robert

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Personally I only 'clean' any medals in my collection by gently wiping with a dry cloth, no cleaning agents or abrasive materials and as for Plaques I never clean these as they where originally issued with a dark patina not the over polished shiney bronze ones that you now get. (Obviously some have been overcleaned by family members in memory of a cherished lost Son/Husband/Brother)

By over cleaning/Polishing you lose some definition on the figures and inscriptions.

There has been a discussion on this forum in the past into the pro's and con's on cleaning etc and what with but I cannot find it at present to point you in the right direction but I am sure someone will be along shortly to let you/me know.

Dave

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Yes, you will engender fierce debate about cleaning or not cleaning medals, but plaques should not be polished. Like when bronzes appear on Antiques Roadshow and such; don't clean them - ruins the patina that was intended. If thye've been cleaned in the past, too late - but don't clean them again!

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I agree, for the plaque very soapy water only with only a soft brush, a tooth brush would be ideal, if it is polished please please do not take anyones advice on re-toning (I look forward to any discussion with 'experts' who suggest otherwise).

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To protect {& return something of the "Bronze" look} an application of a good quality Dark Tan boot polish will clean off residues andf protect from moisture,it can always be removed by washing in hot soapy water. :thumbsup:

I have used this on numerous Plaques both light coloured & dark Bronzed without any detriment to the finish.

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post-65341-0-33035700-1311821968.jpg

Thanks to all who gave advice. I am now very clear on what to do or not dso with the plaques.

With regards to the medals, see the attached photo showing condition of the 1914 Star ribbon. I'm open to opinions on whether this can be restored / improved, as it is a bit tattered.

While on this medal subject, am I correct in thinking that the little rose shown is one of the two silver roses awared with the clasp, to those soldiers who came under fire between 5 Aug and 22 Nov 1914? If so, should I use silver polish to restore its brightness, as it is rather dull?

Thanks, Iain

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Difficult to restore as the original silk ribbons do not respond to cleaning. Replacement silk ribbon is difficult and expensive to find. One trick is to dismount the medal and turn the ribbon over - it may be clean on the other side!

Yes, you can clean the rosette, but take care not to get cleaner or polish on the ribbon, it will stain.

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post-65341-0-33035700-1311821968.jpg

Thanks to all who gave advice. I am now very clear on what to do or not dso with the plaques.

With regards to the medals, see the attached photo showing condition of the 1914 Star ribbon. I'm open to opinions on whether this can be restored / improved, as it is a bit tattered.

While on this medal subject, am I correct in thinking that the little rose shown is one of the two silver roses awared with the clasp, to those soldiers who came under fire between 5 Aug and 22 Nov 1914? If so, should I use silver polish to restore its brightness, as it is rather dull?

Thanks, Iain

Iain,

It is possible to wash the original ribbons and whereas they will never return to their original state, it can improve them considerably, dependant entirely upon the type of staining. Looking at the picture which you have posted, this ribbon does not look too bad, so it should come up quite well. After washing you can also carefully iron them, this will improve them considerably.The clasp to the 1914 Star is one of the later slide-on type.

The rose is indeed one of the two issued at the same time as the 1914 clasp, one was normally sewn onto the ribbon bar to designate the 1914 Star as oppose to the 1914/15 Star when the ribbon bar was worn on its own(which of course it usually was)without the medals. The second rose was often sewn onto the medal ribbon above the clasp, as to whether or not this was its true purpose I am not entirely sure. You can polish this with silver polish although it may be advisable to either remove it from the ribbon first or try to protect the ribbon from the polish in some way, possibly by using a 'button stick' or a 'soldier's friend'--I think that these are the correct names? The rose will tone down gradually--but in this instance you would probably be better to just clean it using the soap and water and toothbrush method, but of course this is entirely up to you--provided you don't start using a 'Brillo Pad' then any method of careful cleaning should not cause any significant harm.

Robert

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Hi all

As a collector of plaques/medals i would tend to go with the majority and at most just a light clean with soapy water if you so wish, my preference is to leave alone as i like to see patina and even a little wear to the ribbons, looking at your medals i personally would leave as is, i think most would agree that its not nice to see a polished medal/plaque set with replacement ribbons, maybe a light rub of the ribbons if the staining bothers you

Andy

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Thanks, Andy.

Its mainly the creasing and slight staining of the 1914 star ribbon in particular that bothers me, I guess, if they were to be put in a presentation case (just toying with that idea, as some may say it wa s a bit morbid, perhaps). I am definitely very loathe to go to the extent of replacement ribbons.

Cheers,

Iain

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The rose is indeed one of the two issued at the same time as the 1914 clasp, one was normally sewn onto the ribbon bar to designate the 1914 Star as oppose to the 1914/15 Star when the ribbon bar was worn on its own(which of course it usually was) without the medals. The second rose was often sewn onto the medal ribbon above the clasp, as to whether or not this was its true purpose I am not entirely sure.

The only purpose of the roses were to represent the clasp (as worn on the Star) on ribband bars, two roses allowed for two ribband bars to be made up. They were never intended to be worn on the actual medals, however despite clear instructions issued with the medals it is quite common with the actual medals to see either one rose sewn above the bar, or in certain cases just the rose itself (usually for soldiers entitled to the bar but who did not claim the actual bar for whatever reason).

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Just a personal opinion.

I have four sets of relatives medals in display cases on my walls (not professionally done) and as they are only really viewed by my own family

I have left all items medals,plaques,ribbons,cap badges etc in there original state.

To me they look and feel more natural.

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In my case, the plaques have been in their original folded card package, together with the letter from George V, for probably over 90 years. Sounds silly, but to put them in a display case would "separate" things (though of course, I'd never throw out the package. Told you it sounds silly.

Would the exposure to sunlight or the air, if the plaques and medals were put in a case cause them to fade or tarnish overly much? (again, obvious to say they would not be kept near a window).

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Iain,

Provided that the case is reasonably airtight then the medals should not tarnish to any great extent and only the ribbons can fade if exposed to sunlight, provided that you keep the frame away from any direct light then you should be ok.

Robert

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Provided that the case is reasonably airtight then the medals should not tarnish to any great extent and only the ribbons can fade if exposed to sunlight, provided that you keep the frame away from any direct light then you should be ok.

Robert

Exactly,

mine haven't changed at all and I have followed Robert's suggestion,albeit 20 years ago.

Simon.

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Thank you to everyone for the opinions and tips. Final question (maybe)...

If deciding to put plaques and medals in a presntation case, how would Isupport them (bearing in mind the weight of the plaques in particular)?

Iain

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Iain,

Overkill for me.

I used screws and wall plugs suitable for putting up a small shelf. Purely to make sure it will not fail and unless I move

house it will be permanently in that position.

To be safe (as I am only a DIY'er) ask at your local hardware store. Explain what you are doing and possible weights involved.

Simon.

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Sorry for confusion Simon. I am OK with hanging the presentation case.

But how to hold the plaques and medals WITHIN the case, is my concern, because of ther weights. I cant see any alternative but to glue or sticky tape the back, unless the case was so small that the plaque rested on the bottom (not a good look in my mind).

Thanks.

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Dont apologise.

After re-reading your post it would make sense thats what you were enquiring about.

As I have not got a display which was done professionally I can only briefly explain what I done.If any doubts and the budget

can stretch it might be an idea to get it done.

For me I done a three layer system.

Layer 1 main board with cutouts for medals,cap badges,photos etc. The cutout for the Death Plaque was exact so it was a tight fit once pushed in this will not fall out.

This was covered with material of my colour choice.

Layer 2 which is the middle board which has no cutouts but the medals,cap badges anything with a pin catch etc to mount too.

My medals are all on 2,3 or 4 full size brooch bars.

Layer 3 is the back board which holds it all in.

A frame was put around it and obviously glass in front.

Dimensions etc I never wrote down so sorry for that. It's not a perfect job but it worked for me.

Cheers Simon.

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Sounds impressive, Simon. I get the general idea. Have you a photo of it, as it sounds worth a look!

Iain

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Sounds impressive, Simon. I get the general idea. Have you a photo of it, as it sounds worth a look!

Iain

I will when I get the time. Working away from home at the moment so when I get back and my camera is working i'll P.M. you

Simon.

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