Monday, November 1, 2010

Antique WWI and WWII Rosaries for Soldiers

 Note that all the centers on the Antique WWI rosaries are the same. Each one has a profile of Mary on one side and Jesus carrying the cross on the reverse. Every single one of the rosaries has this center. The crucifix is entirely another story. They vary greatly, from wood crucifixes to simple brass ones.

Accurate histories of rosary types are very difficult to come by- there are few with general knowledge on this topic, as rosaries have only recently become collector items. Prior to modern times they were solely devotional objects, and these soldier's rosaries exemplify that. These were official issue rosaries during WWI. The story goes that so many were produced there were plenty remaining up until WWII. Made to be durable, they are constructed of "pull chain" designed metal balls. Nearly indestructible, they were carried by our soldiers to battle.

Because of their extreme durability, they make wonderful rosaries for daily use. I have seen similar versions coming from nun's estates. Perhaps they were given to an aunt or sister who was a nun by returning soldiers, or maybe some were intentionally made for convent use.

Currently, I have one that has an old field repair on The Sacred Bead. This one is very special, as it must have quite a story to tell. It needs to go to a WWI history buff or someone who appreciates the endurance and devotion that rosaries have had. They are not all shiny and new! Many of the antique rosaries on my website have had over a century of loving use and repairs. But, that is the only WWI rosary I have ever seen with a repair, testifying to their extreme durability.

Most of these rosaries are solid brass. A few have silver plating, these are said to be the ones reserved for the chaplains. Some are worn through the plating, again testifying to their endurance. With constant handling, the old patina on the brass is gently worn away and they begin to glow again. I never clean rosaries, leaving that to the new owner. Some like the original patina, others like a polished look. These are absolutely gorgeous when polished. Although I have seen some sellers claiming the silvered ones to be sterling, none are marked sterling and they were made after the laws went into affect that silver and gold must be marked. I doubt that there are any that are sterling, so beware of sellers claiming that one is solid silver. Testing silver only reveals the surface material so silver plate will test the same as solid silver unless a file mark is made through the plating- which of course, ruins the rosary.


  1. hello, i love your blog.
    i love rosaries and have just started to collect them. i purchased a wwi rosary which looks exactly like the brass one in the second last picture. it came with a cloth tag showing the US army flag and hat and the french army hat and flag with 4 stars going up. i wonder if you know what this tag is if i e-mail you a picture?

    thank you

  2. I bought a very unique antique military rosary from France, it is unusual in that it has the regular wire loops connecting the beads, and a sterling cross and the triangle part (Forgot the name) connecter is sterling with lovely scrolling on it. It stainless steel w/very little bits of rust. The beads are oval and very smooth. How cool is that!

  3. I acquired, from my wife's family lineage, a silver plate brass Rosary like these depicted. Shows a lot of wear so I know someone has been praying on them. I can now brag that I have the Chaplin's WW 1 version...thanks.

  4. You can buy a really nice replica of these from for only $25.99. They are made the same, very sturdy.

  5. I have several of these rosaries, however, I have never been able to find any definitive documentation that these rosaries were really WW1 military issue. Does anyone have such documentation?