What is a Medallion?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2019
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While a medallion may take on many different forms and applications, the term is generally used to refer to a piece of metal that is used for some type of ornamental purpose. The ornamentation may be utilized as part of a work of art, as a design element within a home or public building, personal decoration, or as a object that commemorates heroic actions undertaken by the individual. Anciently, a medallion was understood to be a coin, including ceremonial coins used in honoring the dead. In most cases, a medallion is constructed with the use of metal, although there are examples today that are manufactured with the use of wood and plastic compounds.

When used as a design element, a medallion is often utilized as part of the scrollwork on door, window, and ceiling moldings. The medallions of this type are often carved or engraved with detailed images that accentuate the lines of the decorating accent. Round medallions are also sometimes used as ornamentation around a lighting fixture, such as a chandelier.


The medallion has long been understood to be a larger medal that is awarded for notable actions taken by the person received the award. Most people tend to think of this type of medallion in associated to heroic efforts that take place within a military situation. However, many organizations award large medals or medallions to persons who have performed actions that have proven to be highly beneficial to the core purpose of the company or association. Within this example, the medallion is a symbol of actions or services that go above and beyond the norm.

From time to time, the medallion enjoys a time of popularity as a fashion statement. Generally the medallion is worn at the end of a long chain composed of complimentary materials. The actual design of the medallion may be somewhat less intricate than designs used in decorating elements, but still tend to be detailed enough to catch the eye. The medallion worn as personal ornamentation is sometimes confused with a pendant, which is actually smaller in size. In addition, pendants tend to be worn on chains that are slightly shorter.


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