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Tim B

Question on Order of Leopolds

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Tim,

The crossed swords devices are for veterans of those wars and thus awarded many years after the actual wars have ended. WWI veterans receiving their Leopold Orders after the bilingual legend had been instituted are perfectly possible. They would have first received the Leopold II Order, then the Crown Order and only then the Leopold Order.

The WWI crossed swords device was created in 1939 ... just for the sake of argument : say a veteran around that time received a Leopold II knight class with the new device. He could receive his Crown Order knight class after WWII had ended, say 1945-46 and 5 years later may have come into a Leopold Order knight class - this means 1950-51 at the earliest and about the time the bilingual centre came into official being.

Cheers,

Hendrik

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Hi Hendrik!

Thanks for always being there to answer the questions! :cheers: Sometimes, I feel I am the only one asking and have to wonder if I am so far behind the curve where my questions are so "novice" or are there others out there also benefiting from these posts and have the same questions for themselves?

Anyway, your answers make total sense; I forget the awards are not only for specific achievements, but also long service type awards and they awarded different medals depending on the actual amount of time in service and promotions along the way. :cheers:

So, in your opinion, would there really be much difference in rarity or collectibility of these type awards when looking at say a piece that is unilingual, with plain crossed swords or one with a bilingual center and the same swords set-up?

Tim

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...would there really be much difference in rarity or collectibility of these type awards when looking at say a piece that is unilingual, with plain crossed swords or one with a bilingual center and the same swords set-up?

Hi Tim,

Not really, I think, especially when bearing in mind that one can ask a manufacturer to produce a unilingual centre piece to this very day.

It's when you look at the overall picture, especially including the 19th century pieces, that the Leopold Order becomes quite interesting. Also, the quality of the early pieces is so much higher than today's manufacturers are capable of achieving.

Cheers,

Hendrik

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Ahhh, no surprise there uh? Quality always sells! ;) Thanks again!

Tim

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Thought I would plug this one in here as it relates to the Leopold II and the swords issues.

If I read correctly, here is a post 1951 Leopold II, Knights Class, with bronze crossed swords for a WWII veteran. As the sword colors depended on the amount of titles (basically similar to the US point system), the bronze swords on the WWII & Korea era awards are correct.

Sword attachments for these two wars could be either gold, silver, or bronze in color, depending on the number of titles the veteran had attained; however the plain swords (WWI vets) were only in silver. Gilt could be attained at the buyer's request, but they (gilt) were strictly unofficial.

I think I got it right, if not please correct me. Enjoy:

Tim

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Here's another nice Officer class Leopold II; this one is post 1951 with the bilingual languages. Note the gold crossed swords. I read conflicting statements on the gilt swords for officer grades; one says officers were gold and another said the plain swords were strictly silver (WWI). Any clarifications??

Tim

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Very nice, but I can see where at one point in time the swords must have been attached on top of the rosette instead of the top as they are now.

Tim

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Thought I would put up a couple more Leopold II for review.

Here's a knights class with WWI swords. The center & enamel are different from others that I have and I have to ask again if it's only manufacturer differences, or is this a indication of time periods where certain style lions and colors of enamel were used?

Tim

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You can see the gold stripe is woven and not just colored ribbon material. Sharp looking piece. :cheers:

Tim

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Thought I would add another one for viewing. This is a very nice example of a Leopold I, Civil Division issued for bravery during WWI. The gold stripes on the borders are woven similar to the Leopold II posted earlier. Without a gold star, the person was not mentioned in the orders of the day, but still recognized for a gallant act during wartime. :cheers:

Here's a question; Notice the case is marked by DeGreef; were they a manufacturer or just a retail supplier? The term "Fabricant" tells me they manufactured pieces as well as sell them.

Tim

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The reason I'm asking is that the Order is a Wolfers product if I'm not mistaken.

Tim

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Another shot close-up. These really have nice quality workmanship and in this case, virtually no enamel damage! :jumping:

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Even the lion has great detail to it and is separately applied. You can just see the center bar between the body and tail where it inserts into the black enamel.

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Close-up.

Enjoy, I know I do; a real treat for me. :beer:

Tim

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Nobody else have Leopold I's they want to show off? :(

Well, here's another one. Case has some minor water damage/stain, but the structural integrity is still good. Must have had other boxes stacked on it as the shadows remain; kind of cool.

I read this is a gilded silver piece. At first, I thought D'Argent might be a manufacturer, but believe this is just the bilingual equivilent as it appears each line is stated twice.

It does have a couple enamel chips on the reverse; a couple minor leaf segments and of course, the left lower cross tip. Is there anyway to repair enamel? Dried enamel model paint perhaps!? :o:D

Tim

Not a Wolfer's but the quality is very nice and it's heavy!

Enjoy!

Edited by Tim B

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Front & Back: Ribbon has really faded on the front. Also, the top of the ribbon has a "rivet"? in the top; you can see the two prongs and the other side is a brass ball type head. Is this something that was used when mounting the medal? The case had a spare "two-prong" pin, typical of the issue mounting device, but it was loose in the case.

Tim

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Really a beautiful piece as the gold has started to tone in places to an almost rose color at the top of the crown to a deep yellow on other places! :love: If you like toned coins, it's almost the same coloration you see on Morgan silver dollars. :cheers:

Wish I could repair that enamel chip though.

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I don't know about Belgian Orders, but most old European Orders seem to have been assembled with the centers "fixed" with some sort of "chewing gum"-like substance inside the centers which petrifies and that allows some "jiggle" movement if there are not little pins through the center like those found on Prussian Red Eagle Orders. Occasionally the centers fall off these "gum" awards which is why they will show up missing a front or back center disk. That's not a quality control problem-- just a result of age.

I'd suspect your Leopold above must have that sort of "medal putty" inside the center since there would be no way to pin holed pieces through with the leaves in the way.

Rick,

This "gum" substance is jeweler's setting clay. Each company had their own recipe for that and it ranges in colour from white, through reds, pinks and browns into almost black. This special grade clay, mixed with additives was being kept hot in a crucible (bubbling - so to speak) but not burning. When poured into 'cavity' of the order being assembled this setting agent would go hard in matter of 10 seconds or so. If person failed to place the covering center exactly in the middle - this would end up 'off-center'. If it was not too much off - it was often accepted and delivered that way. Obviously, awards of higher classes received much better 'quality-control'.

Some manufacturers made their center disks with small 'catches' in order to anchor the piece and setting clay together. This was often in form of a small loop or such. Pins you mention were often used as a 'counter-spin' measure (heated and then pushed into the center through small holes). Some awards have center disks with 'collar-type' feature, where there is no setting clay but a piece of thin metal folded to form an inner-sort of a ring and soldered inside of the center disk (the underside of it). Both sides are made carefully to fit inside each other and then drilled and pinned from the outside to anchor the whole ensemble together. This was normally done on 'high-end' decorations (but not exclusively). One can find that sort of assembly on many Gold pieces.

To my knowledge, oldest setting substance used by English and French court jewelers was the 'pine-resin' - also used to stamp-seal documents etc. Setting clay was used extensively from early 1800's and is still in use by many Order manufacturers.

Based on my observations, Belgian manufacturers typically did not use pins though (not even on older, XIX c. pieces).

Hope you find this interesting.

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Hi farmer,

As the thread is slightly over a year old since posting several of these questions/comments, some may not reply here anymore.

Good information regardless, especially for anyone that does stumble across the thread or want to know more on these awards. :cheers:

Tim

Not a Belgian Leopold order here, but a French Legion of Honor and you can see an example of this jeweler's clay:

post-548-088447300 1291933097_thumb.jpg

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I also wanted to point out that the Leopold I centers can rotate. Appears this clay is pasted to both the front and reverse centers and once dried will keep the two centers orientated to one another. So, if you see PIC's of an item (i/e: for sale) where the centers appear off-center, then chances are you will be able to rotate the centers back to the original position. I have seen some that rotate freely, while others are very stiff, but they do move. Just be careful!!

I don't know if this applies to the French LOH as well, as I have not needed to check one yet.

Tim

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Tim,

Indeed, the L1 centers had no pins and when clay becomes 'disturbed' it can rotate but not separate. They literally placed the piece with reverse center disk down - flat on the special form (to perfectly accept the Order) and using a little ladle scooped the hot clay and poured into the center part. Top (usually obverse) center disk was previously 'given' just a bit of clay in the middle and when clay was still hot - voila - they stuck it right onto the center with still hot clay. 10 seconds later - all was set and ready to be ribboned.

I got to see this procedure many times. My uncle was a jeweller in France and worked for some time in Chobillion's shop. When I was quite young, he took me on a trip to Austria where he did some work in Anton Reitterer's shop - they made Austrian Merit Orders there.

LOH - there were so many makers! Some used just clay, others clay and pins.

I know some collectors tried to re-assemble loose piece and failed. This is a tricky procedure since not all clay can be heated up again. Some just burns and does not set up as originally intended.

I had some good results (purchased few orders in pieces where everything was separate - price was just too good to pass up) with seal wax. Same stuff used in stamp sealing envelopes etc. This can be found in some craft stores and is dark red, comes in sticks that can be heated up with a lighter (not a hot glue!!). It worked on my LOH but I really doubt it is as strong as original setting clay (which by the way I don't think one can easily purchase).

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