All the Victorian Crosses presented so far have been made out of Gun Metal, taken from Russian Weapons seized during the Crimean War, although some speculation surrounds suggestions that during and immediately after the First World War, bronze from Chinese cannons was used for a short period. Firstly, Victoria Crosses were manufactured from bars of bronze, smelted from the parts of two Russian Bronze smooth bore guns captured during the Crimean War, but these ingots were destroyed during a bombing raid in World War 2. New metal was cut from another Russian gun caught at Sevastapol. This new metal is stored at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps Central Depot in Shropshire, UK.
Ever since its institution the Cross has been supplied by the well known London jewellers Hancock and Co., now of Burlington Gardens, London. The company holds a small quantity of gun metal, and produces the medals in batches of 6, when required. The Cross and Suspender, or Bar, are cast from the Gunmetal, seperately (from 1914 to 1950 a die-cast suspender was used). The hardness of the metal is only achieved by casting at a temperature of 2000 degrees fahrenheit, as no other process, such as pressing with dyes, produces satisfactory results. The temperature of the molten bronze is absolutely critical: if it is too hot the mould will be damaged, too cold and the bronze will not appear correct. After the newly cast crosses have cooled, the crosses are finished by a craftsman who improves the lettering to make it stand out clearly, engraves minute details and adds the maker's secret mark to protect against forgeries. The components of the medal are then chemically treated to achieve the dark brown finish, which is darker on some medals than others.
The ribbon is actually Crimson, despite being called Red in the Army Warrents. It is always 1.5 inches wide. Originally the ribbon was dark blue for the Navy and crimson for the Army. Shortly before the Royal Air Force was formed on April 1st, 1918, the King approved the recommendation that the color Crimson should be adopted by all recipients. When the ribbon is worn alone, without the cross, a miniature adaptation of the cross is pinned on it. (see below)
The Cross itself is hung from a bar, which has a slot for the ribbon in the back. Cast into the bottom of the bar is a 'V' (for 'valour') from which the Cross is suspended. The front of the bar is decorated with Laurel Leaves. The Cross and Suspender Bar are joined by a small, link which passes through the lug of both components. On earlier issues the link was circular. Later, the link was made more oval shaped, for comfort.
The details of the recipient are engraved on the reverse of the suspender bar, and the date of the act of gallantry is engraved in a circle on the back of the cross itself. The details on the suspender bar include the rank, name and regiment of the recipient. Abbreviations are used according to the length of the inscription. Occasionally the recipients full or abbreviated first names appear.
Various copies and fakes exist, with some being very well made indeed. However, due to the cooling of the metal in the mould, they are slightly smaller than the genuine crosses and not of the correct weight. Nevertheless, Hancocks do not consider the weight of great importance as the thickness of the decoration can vary, especially with the earlier issues. Some copies are struck from dyes which are poorly finished and too lighter color. Hancocks can almost always state whether a Cross is genuine or not.