Wednesday, January 2, 2013

1/2/13 Report - Religious Medals And a Few Clues on How to Date

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Dug Religious Medallion
Many goods were shipped to the New World from Spain in large quantities.   Among items supplied to the New World were a lot of religious items.  Although Spain was protective of trade with the New World colonies, it could not supply all that was needed and imported many items from other European countries before shipping them.

Among the religious items shipped, there were many rosaries, rosary parts and religious medals.  Those were shipped in quantities of thousands.  Many came from Rome and had "ROMA" embossed on the medal.

Bronze and copper alloys were very common materials for religious medals.

There are several features that might help you identify the approximate period of dug religious medals.

The medallion shown above (I presume it is a medallion as opposed to a plaquette) was dug on a 1715 wreck beach.  It is a copper alloy and was once covered with silver gilt. 

I posted this photo before but am showing it again to illustrate what I am talking about today.  I also previously posted the words of a prayer that is found on the back of the item.

Early religious medals, seventeenth century, often had small flanges or protrusions on the top, bottom, right and left sides of the medal.

I always figured that the above was a medal and that the hole for the loop was broken off, but that might not be the case.  You can tell that this one definitely lost some material around the edges, but I don't know how much.

Illustration from Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean, 1500-1800.

Here is an illustration from Deagan's book, Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean, 1500-1800.  You can find a copy in the library system.  The Fort Pierce branch has it in the reserved section.

What I wanted to point out about this is that the hole faces right to left.  Most modern medals have the hole going front to back.  That is one good clue.  It seems that it was typical of the Spanish medals shipped to the New World before the 1800s to have the hole as shown in this example.  Medals were typically oval, octagonal, or round.  Most often they were under 5 cm. in height, including the loop.

There are some themes or design features that changed a bit on average over the centuries,  but that is more than I can address today.

Dug Gold Medallion.
Here is a medallion that I showed not long ago.  It is gold and shows how the hole goes front to back as it typically does on more modern medallions.  This medallion is gold and not marked at all.  My guess is that it is 1900s, but that is only my guess at this point.

Of course if it were marked 14K or whatever, we would know that it is modern.   Check for the smallest markings because that will usually provide your best diagnostic information.  I've overlooked small markings in obscure locations that I failed to notice for some time.

If you want to look into this more or have a medallion that you want to date, make a trip to your library.  Deagan's book provides a lot of information on old medals.

Bernie C., founder of the St. Lucie Metal Detecting Club, sent me an email with the following.

Our club meeting will be January 12th at 6:00pm at my house. I think I'll be doing the cooking for this one....Don't forget to bring your favorite beverage...

Bernie C. also said, "Anyone who is interested: I will be selling my Garrett Sea Hunter MKII, the machine will be 1 year old January 20th, I will be sending it to Garrett this week for a complete check up. I'll be asking $475.00."

You can find his contact info in previous posts.  Use the search box on the blog front page.

I haven't been to the beach for a couple of days.  Will have to get out soon.  Will have a report for you then.

I don't think anything has changed in the mean time to change detecting conditions much.

Happy New Year,