The Order of the Precious Crown
寶冠章
(Houkanshou)
The Precious Crown award (once commonly called the Sacred Crown) was established in 1888. This award, quite rare in
all its classes, was made exclusively for women.  Originally there were only 5 classes, but in 1896 the 6th through 8th
classes were established for nurses, teachers, and other women worthy of merit.  See
HERE for different examples of who
received the different classes. And see
HERE for page 2 of the Sacred Crown.

Each class has its unique suspension design, and they are as follows:

1st Class: Paulonia
2nd Class: Peony
3rd Class: Moth (or sometimes called Butterfly)
4th Class: Wisteria
5th Class: Apricot
6th Class: Waves (or sometimes called Ripple)
The 7th and 8th Classes have no suspension. However, the 7th is usually called the Gold Medal (because of the partial
gold gilt) and the 8th the Silver.

In 2003 the numbered classes were abolished. There are currently only 6 different medals. See
the Japan Mint page for
details. In addition, since women can now receive the Sacred Treasure Award, this order presently is conferred on women
in the Imperial Family or female foreign dignitaries (especially nobility).

The first commoners to receive this award were two Red Cross nurses who helped in the First Sino-Japanese War
(1894-5).  They both received the 7th Class. Their names are Takayama Mitsu and Niijima Yae.

On the 1st Class badge there are 108 pearls and on the smaller medal there are 209. Up to 1988, according to the
Japanese Decorations Bureau, only naturally cultured pearls were ever used on these medals. (I am not sure if this is still
the case.)
6th Class
7th Class
8th Class
8th Class
8th Class
2nd Class
7th Class
The following are detailed illustrations from a 1934 book on medals. These are not great substitutes for actual
photos, but they may be useful in determining the differences in the classes.
You can see the 1st Class badge illustrations
HERE.
2nd Class
3rd Class
4th Class
5th Class
6th Class
7th Class
8th Class
5th Class
Newer cases (post-war) have a smooth purple silk interior,
but pre-war examples have a purple velvet material.
6th Class
4th Class
2nd Class award document. Dated Showa 61 [1986].
Here is an example of an earlier case. The
inscription style is different.
6th Class
There is a 'ME' hallmark on the reverse, but I do not know what it
signifies.
from Wikipedia
4th Class Order of the Precious Crown