Neck Badge, 1928-46

Founded and awarded by Rajah Vyner Brooke of Sarawak


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The Most Excellent Order of the Star of Sarawak was founded by Rajah Vyner Brooke on 26 September 1928 “to recognize exceptional services by Sarawak subjects and foreigners alike to the State of Sarawak, in all fields of endeavor.” This was the first, only, and highest order of chivalry established in the Raj of Sarawak and served as a dynastic order of knighthood and as a state order with the Rajah as sovereign. 

Despite being under the protection of Britain since 1888, the order served to assert Sarawak’s nationhood and that of the Brookes as its sovereign rulers. It was one of many symbolic actions the Brooke Rajahs undertook to navigate Sarawak's tenuous situation between a declining Brunei and the expanding colonial interests of Britain and the Netherlands in Borneo. The order was last awarded in 1946 when Sarawak became a British colony and went dormant in 2006 when its last recipient died. 

This five-pointed badge of a middle-ranked Companion of the Order (CSS) was awarded only 14 times. It exhibits the arms of Sarawak — its red and black cross enameled in color — ensigned with the Crown of Sarawak (a heraldic Eastern Crown). Encircling the arms is the motto “HARAPLAH SA-LAGI BERNAFAS” a translation of the Latin phrase Dum Spiro Spero ("While I breathe, I hope.") The collar is a yellow ribbon with a black line down the center, while the presentation case features the arms of Sarawak in gilt outside. Inside, the wooden box is lined with white satin and maroon velvet. Printed on the satin, in gilt, is the logo of the manufacturer J. Pinches, London.


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John Pinches (Medallists) Limited was a London-based firm founded c. 1841 by brothers Thomas and John Pinches. John presided over the company from 1856 until his death in 1905. When the badge in our collection was manufactured, John Harvey Pinches, the eldest son of founder John Pinches, was in charge. He wrote the book Medals by John Pinches; A Catalog of Works Struck by the Company from 1840 to 1969 in 1987. The firm was sold to—and closed by— the Franklin Mint of Pennsylvania in 1969. It was also known by the names Pinches, J. Pinches, Messrs Pinches, Pinches Brothers, and Pinches Ltd. 

Medium & Techniques

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Metal, silver gilded and partly enameled; ribbon; wooden box covered in synthetic leather and lined with satin and velvet


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69mm diameter; 117 grams weight

People involved

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  • Acquired from Peter Paul Portelli of Melbourne, Australia and Germany
  • Exchanged from a collector for a British Military Medal
  • Reputedly acquired at a Spring auction in Künker, Germany