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A thin flat tablet, usually circular or oval, bearing a portrait, design or inscription. Such pieces were made of gold, porcelain, glass, ivory, coral, paste, etc., and some were decorated with miniature painting, enamelling, engraving, or a cameo, intaglio or carved gemstone.
They were used principally for a personal adornment, as on a brooch or a pendant, as distinguished from a 'plaque' used mainly for wall or furniture decoration. Many portrait medallions in relief were made by Josiah Wedgwood in Jasper or black basaltes, and were framed in metal. Such medallions were also made in glass paste by James Tassie.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson