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Loop.  Any ring-shaped mounting for suspending a medallic item from a ribbon, cord, chain or other suspension system. Loops, also called bails, can be made as part of the medallic item, or made separately and attached to it. The following are the more common types of loops:

(1) Integral Part – a cavity is cut into one or both dies to form a lug usually at

the top of the medal; after striking the medal is trimmed with a special trimmer allowing for the integral loop. The projecting lug is then drilled or pierced to form the ring; the shape of the loop may take any of special forms.

(2) Barrel Loop – a long integral loop shaped like a barrel, bulging somewhat at the center sides.

(3) Soldered – a ring or link is attached to the medal by soldering, usually on the edge, but infrequently on the back.

(4) Shoulder Loop – one piece loop with wide band which is soldered to top of medal.

(5) Drill and Tap – a medal is drilled at the 12 o’clock position in the edge, tapped with threads and an eyelet screw is threaded into position.

(6) Crimped Leaf Hanger – with little damage to the medal, this hanger crimps around the edge but may be used only with a high molded border. It is also called clam shell hanger.

(7) Swing Hanger – a loop of varying length, width or thickness fabricated to a

medal by means of a pin which passes through a tiny hole drilled in the medal; the hanger loop is free to swing somewhat.

(8) Swivel Suspender – a loop with a pin attached to the medal; the pin allows the

medal to swivel inside the suspender.

(9) Shank – the loop on the back of a button to attach it to a garment; the most common type is an alpha or loop shank.  See button.

A loop which does not permit the pendant medal to turn is called a fixed suspender. This includes all types listed above except number 7, swing hanger, and number 8, swivel suspender. British decorations, and others, have such swivel suspenders to show either side when worn.

For some integral loops the lug may be of several shapes: rounded, ball (or sphere), oval, square, triangular, barrel shaped. They may also have berries at the side or other ornamentation. The opening – called the eye – may be pierced, often during the trimming process, or drilled, and this may occur from the front of the medal to the back, or sideways through the lug (parallel to the medal).

The size of the loop may change the medallic item; for example, fobs have wide loops – so a strap may pass through them. The same object with a normal ring loop would be a bob.

Jump rings are usually attached to the loop; whereas the loop is fixed, the

jump ring is lapped to open and pass through both the loop and the first link of a chain or whatever is being attached to it.

To protect the object instead of attaching a loop to it, a coin or medal is sometimes used in a separate bezel that has a permanent loop attached. Thus the coin or medal could be removed from a bezel and not exhibit any damage due to the suspension method.

Most medals have the loop at the top, however a few medals – intended to be hung from a neck ribbon and to partake in some ceremony – have the loop at the bottom. Thus the medal hangs upside down, but is of correct orientation to the wearer. Several religious and Masonic medals have been observed with the loop in this position (including the Royal Arch Distinguished Service Medal, 51-22).

Also some medals have loops located at both top and bottom of the medal for additional items – drops – to be suspended from them. Two or more loops are attached if this is the design of the suspension system.

History of medal loops. The medals of the Renaissance were all made for wearing. This was accomplished by drilling one or more holes near the rim (drill hole). Only in a very rare instance did the makers add a flange (lug) at the top for drilling this and not into the medal within the rim. These methods displeased 18th century French medallists. Renaissance medals without holes do exist, but are rare.

Jean Baptiste Nini improved upon these methods by creating a loop through a separate globe-shaped lug with the hole drilled parallel with the medal. This lug was then affixed to the medal and the loop inserted. An example of this method exists on a Albertine de Nivenheim Medallion of 1768 (Kress 582).

Cataloging loops. In describing, with loop or without loop are indications of an item's mounting. These are not separate varieties (since a loop can be easily removed or added by a professional medalmaker). In a catalog of medals of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the author assigned two numbers to a Holy Brothers Jefferson-Napoleon Medal (#225 without loop, #226 with). Much better to assign one number to the medal (or design!), with a note it appears with or without loop.

In cataloging, mention is sometimes made of loop removed when noted by the cataloger. Usually these are soldered loops broken or filled off at the point were soldered, or a swing loop broken away from its pin. Crimp leaf hangers leave a triangular impressioncrimp marks – on both sides at the 12:00 position when removed. (Both French and German languages have terms for the object with loop removed – see mounting.)

See also suspension.


O17 {1951} National Gallery of Art.

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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