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A gorget originally was a steel or leather collar designed to protect the throat. It was a feature of older types of armour and intended to protect against swords and other non-projectile weapons. Later, particularly from the 18th century onwards, the gorget became primarily ornamental, serving only as a symbolic accessory on military uniforms.

As part of armour

Most Medieval versions of gorgets were simple neck protectors that were worn under the breastplate and backplate set. These neck plates supported the weight of the armour worn over it, and many were equipped with straps for attaching the heavier armour plates.
Later, Renaissance gorgets were not worn with a breastplate but instead were worn over the clothing. Most gorgets of this period were beautifully etched, gilt, engraved, chased, embossed, or enamelled and probably very expensive.

As part of military uniforms

As early as 1688, regulations provided for the wearing of gorgets by Swedish army officers. For those of captain's rank the gorget was gilt with the king's monogram under a crown in blue enamel, while more junior officers wore silver-plated gorgets with the initials in gold .

During the 18th and early 19th centuries, crescent-shaped gorgets of silver or silver gilt were worn by officers in most European armies, both as a badge of rank and an indication that they were on duty. These last survivals of armour were much smaller (usually about three to four inches in width) than their Medieval predecessors and were suspended by chains or ribbons. In the British service they carried the Royal coat of arms until 1796 and thereafter the Royal cypher.

Gorgets ceased to be worn by British army officers in 1830, and by their French counterparts 20 years later. They were still worn to a limited extent in the Imperial German Army until 1914, as a special distinction by officers of the Prussian Garde du Corps and the Queen's Cuirassier Regiment No 2. Officers of the Spanish infantry continued to wear gorgets with the cypher of King Alfonso XIII in full dress until the overthrow of the Monarchy in 1931. Mexican Federal army officers also wore the gorget with the badge of their branch as part of their dress uniform until 1947. However the Mexican army's new 2010 model dress uniforms are to re-incorporate the gorgets.

A Finnish conscript as a duty NCO, wearing a gold-coloured gorget.
The gorget was revived as a uniform accessory during Germany's Third Reich, seeing widespread use within the German military and Nazi party organizations. During World War II, it continued to be used by German military field police, which wore metal gorgets as emblems of authority. German police gorgets of this period typically were flat metal crescents with ornamental designs that were suspended by a chain worn around the neck. Following the German example, the Finnishmarker Defence Forces still use a metal gorget as a distinguishing mark of the duty conscript of a company, and the highly prussianised Chilean army still use the German style metal gorget in parades and in the uniform of their own Military Police.

Gorget patches

A gorget patch as worn by an RAF Officer Cadet
The scarlet patches still worn on each side of the collar of the tunics of British army generals, and of senior staff officers (in red, blue, crimson, yellow, or green according to branch) are called "gorget patches" in reference to this article of armour. RAF officer cadets wear white gorget patches on their service dress and mess-dress uniforms. Very similar collar patches are worn by British army officer cadets at Sandhurstmarker on the standup collars of their dark-blue "Number One" dress uniforms. These features of modern uniforms are a residual survival from the earlier practice of suspending the actual gorgets from ribbons attached to buttons on both collars of the uniform. Such buttons were often mounted on a patch of coloured cloth or gold embroidery.

The gorget today

Recent advances in protective armours has led to the gorget being reintroduced into the US Army and Marine Improved Outer Tactical Vest and Modular Tactical Vest systems respectively.

Other uses

The state flag of South Carolina features a stylized criniere in its upper-left quadrant.

The term also refers to a broad patch of metallic-looking iridescent feathers on the throats of many male hummingbirds.

References


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