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Insignia.  A symbolic device of distinctive shape and three dimensions indicating rank, office or honor, most often intended to be worn. Such apparel insignia always have

some mechanism – a stem and clasp or pin and catch – for attaching to a garment. Frequently insignia are trimmed to their distinctive shape and infrequently have enamel to provide color or further distinction. Military insignia indicating rank are typical examples.

In a somewhat broader sense, a medallic insignia is a three-dimension graphic

symbol rendered into three dimensions, but one created originally in modulated relief. It often becomes the more important symbol of an organization or event, should they have a graphic symbol as well, or the three-dimensional insignia is expressed in a graphic form. Creating a medallic insignia was often the first work of contemporary sculptors commissioned by an organization or institution. Once this symbol was established, the sculptor would prepare a bust or relief of the founders, then move on to prepare anniversary medals and such. The insignia would then appear on these sculptural objects, often as a subsidiary device.

            American military insignia are under the control and creation of the Institute of Heraldry.  Insignia is a Latin-derived term from episemon, an early form of badge.

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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