I have a mental checklist that I use when assessing any items – in some cases this will be totally different to the American approach as Australian medals are named and numbered by the government and can be identified directly with an individual.
Provenance is vital. U.S.and Australian Dollars are roughly equal in value. However a WWii Bronze Star that would normally be valued at around $60 would add about $2500 to an Australian group as only 86 were issued. But you would have to have documentary proof, and separated from the group, would only be worth the lower amount.
Recently we handled a Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Airforce) for Vietnam. The recipient’s widow was privately offered $150,000. At auction I would expect it to approach half a million. This medal is uique – there is only one in the world.
I have included a photo of a Military Cross from WWII. It has a date, but unlike most medals is unnamed. In the group which gives it provenance it is worth over $8000. On its own it is only worth about $1000.
Victoria Crosses generally sell for over $1million and unlikely to be ever seen by a framer.
My approach to military frames is rather journalistic – I attempt to follow the pattern of the way the items would be worn and avoid decorative colours etc. My aim is dignity.
In framing the most time consuming items are background research, the responsible handling of the items being framed, and above all, design.
The designs, as far as possible are standardised but can be adapted to suit individual needs. For this reason I am fiercely protective of copyright as this is where most of the work lies. In this way most designs can be drafted and cut in 45 minutes to an hour – it’s simply a matter of draw and cut.
I cut completely freehand and this enables me to make the supports to hold the items in the frame.
The frame is first made “in your head” but there might be minor varioations along the way.
People wonder about freehand cutting, but mny experience is you can teach the basics in a few minutes. The big problem arises in where to cut, in other words, the lack of design knowledge – this of course also involves a lack of historic, social and artistic (and in this case military) knowledge. I find framers who don’t even know the rules and some who even deny that there are any.
As in any item to be framed, the question of value arises be it historic, artistic, personal etc etc. Then we look at condition and its material properties – should it even be framed? or should we make a facsimile?
To place the item in context we consider – Time, Place and Personality – the standard things.
Then we consider the way we handle the items. Anything we do will have some impact. The general rules are to provide the Least Chemical Interference, Least Mechanical Interference, Least Electrical Interference. Of course there will generally be combinations of more than one of these.
Then we have to consider outside influences – light, heat etc etc. These outside sources can be considered activators.
Then we have the relationships between the items in the frame – for example, reduction, or galvanic action between differing metals, and with the frame itself e.g. the choice of buffered non-buffered materials for cellulose and protein-based items – once again identification is vital.
In the manufacture of the frame – keep every step as simple as possible:
- adding simple components together enables quite complex outcomes.
- standardize – we often do frames compounded at 30 degrees and have standardized backing frames to create extra depth in the frame.
- follow the design rules – I base frame weighting, mat and moulding relationships and spacing between items in the frame on the Golden Section or Fibonacci numbers.
FOR EXAMPLES SEE PART TWO Neville Crawford on Military Framing (2)