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Pendant.  A medallic or jewelry item intended to be worn suspended from a chain, ribbon or the like, as from around the neck. In effect any medallic item with a loop is a candidate for a pendant. Often a pendant medal is a supplemental part of a medallic piece, as a badge that has three or more parts; as one suspended from a header, ribbon, or other medal. When so suspended it is called a drop.

Size and weight restrictions.  Too small a pendant cannot be seen from a distance, however, those worn continuously are indeed of charm size. Below 1-inch (25.4mm) size an item is considered a charm whether it is worn around the neck or arm or elsewhere. The ideal size for a pendant is from one to three inches.

Medals make excellent pendants and wearing them around the neck is the ideal form of such display. The very first medals by Pisanello, were pendant medals intended to be worn in this manner. Even those cast without holes for suspension were soon pierced by the original owner so he may display the gift item from a prince or royalty as a pendant medal.

Weight of the pendant, of course, is a factor for its being worn. Thus the size for

solid medals is somewhat limited to three or four-inch diameter at most. The greater weight is often overcome, somewhat, by producing the design as a shell or hollowback medal. Also since 1850 an effectively method of weight reduction was making a pendant medal as a galvano medal with a flat back.

Kinds of pendants.  Crosses are, perhaps, the commonest pendants. Other pendants are of religious and inspirational nature. The Paris Mint, for example, has created over 150 pendants of religious nature, with such themes as the annunciation, Christ, nativity scenes, saints, the Virgin, in addition to crosses and crucifixes by many artists.

Pendants that open up – in effect a locket – have employed medallic designs. A special kind of locket, a panagia, also used medallic designs; it was worn by a priest and contained bread for ceremonial purposes.

Inspirational pendants stress themes of love, marriage, motherhood, birth, twins to such topics as the fruit of the earth plus the ever popular zodiac. In many ways these may be considered jewelry items, particularly in precious metals, but the pendant is a medal nonetheless.

Award medals are often pendant medals. The recipient is often photographed wearing the pendant medal. In the United States the Presidential Medal of Science is such an award. Sports medals are often pendant medals, exemplified most dramatically by the Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals being awarded these on a stair-step podium. Pendant medals must be given to individuals, they are inappropriate as awards to organizations.

For collectors, evidence of one or more loops, whether still attached to the medallic item, or missing, is tacit evidence the item was once a pendant, or intended to be a pendant.  See loop. Compare bob (which has a loop like a pendant) and fob (which has a wide loop for a strap and is never used as a pendant).

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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