Natural Resources Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Canadian Victoria Cross

Canadian Victoria Cross

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) houses two of Canada's premier scientific research institutions within its Minerals and Metals Sector. The CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory and the CANMET Mining and Mineral Sciences Laboratories conduct research and development throughout the entire minerals and metals cycle, including mining and mineral processing, downstream materials processing and fabrication, and recycling.

Because of this expertise, the Chancellery of Honours at the Office of the Secretary to the Office of the Governor General invited NRCan staff to participate in the production of the Canadian Victoria Cross.

members of the production planning group Some members of the Victoria Cross Production Planning Group, along with staff from the CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory and the Royal Canadian Mint, shown in NRCan's Experimental Casting Laboratory with the collection of special metals just prior to producing the Victoria Cross alloy on December 7, 2006. Photo by David Ashe.

The NRCan scientific and technical team began their work with an investigation of the metals contained in the original British and subsequent Commonwealth Victoria Crosses. Using X-ray fluorescence, a non-destructive analytical technique, they identified the composition of Canadian Victoria Cross in the collection of the Canadian War Museum. Knowledge of the chemical composition and the production and finishing techniques for these medals was crucial, since a principal technical challenge involved the development of an alloy that had a distinctively Canadian character and, at the same time, preserved direct links to the traditional composition and production methods of former Victoria Crosses.

All British and Commonwealth Victoria Crosses reputedly include metal from a cannon captured during the Crimean War (1854–1856). The Canadian Victoria Cross also includes metal from the same cannon, as does one of Canada's Confederation Medals, produced in 1867. To reflect Canada's rich resource-based industries, commercially-made copper and other metals from Canadian sources were used. This was supplemented with naturally occurring copper from NRCan and private collections, representing all regions of Canada.

first test version The first test version of the Canadian Victoria Cross, cast at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 2006, at the CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory. An early version of the master pattern was used to test various casting techniques. Photo by David Ashe.

After determining the distinctive composition of the new alloy, the NRCan team turned their attention to the production of the medal. The Commonwealth Victoria Cross, known for its remarkable level of relief and fine detail, was cast and not die-struck. To follow tradition and to achieve the same level of relief and detail, the Canadian Victoria Cross was also cast. The team chose to use an investment casting process because of its ability to produce precision castings in small quantities.

With the aid of tooling produced by the Royal Canadian Mint, NRCan's Experimental Casting Laboratory adapted an advanced materials processing technique to produce exact wax replicas to make ceramic moulds for the cross and suspender bars. The wax replicas were covered by or "invested in" a ceramic mixture that was poured around them. Once hardened, the resulting ceramic moulds were subjected to a de-waxing process followed by high-temperature curing. The molten alloy was then poured into the moulds to produce the castings. The basic process is centuries-old, but difficulties involving alloy fluidity and oxidation tendencies created new technical challenges that had to be overcome. Other casting defects were also eliminated through careful process optimization, and special pouring techniques were developed to cast the Canadian Victoria Cross with detailed relief within tight dimensional tolerances.  

The castings were trimmed with precision wire-EDM (electrical discharge machining) techniques. The medals then received a light hand-chasing, or engraving, by the Royal Canadian Mint, followed by the application of a patina to protect the surface and produce the unique colouring required for the medal. Finished medals were sent to the Department of National Defence for final presentation mounting. The combined casting and hand-finishing operations ensure that no two Canadian Victoria Cross medals are alike.

Although specific details of the alloy compositions and production process are well-guarded, the Canadian Victoria Cross pays homage to the traditions of its Commonwealth predecessor, while establishing a uniquely Canadian character.

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