A GLOSSARY OF TERMS USED IN PHALERISTICS by Alexander J. Laslo, 1997, is a must-have for anyone interested in military/civilian medals, ribbons, badges and varying decorations.
Though I find this science--and even the term itself--to be uncommon in America, its study was pioneered in Russia and Poland by an eminent scholar who loved the history of badges. The love simply spread from badges to, well, just about anything one could label a decoration.
"Phalera", as I recall it, is (most likely) a neo-Greco-Roman word indicating certain types of medallions that were awarded to horses. Yes, I wrote "horses". Later, and only later, did it become natural to award medals to humans over horses. Well, believe it or don't. This work by Laslo is a must for anyone wanting to pursue knowledge in this discipline.
By the way, this ancient term is related to the modern word "valor" and I believe is its actual origin.
May I also suggest a pretty little American book, Medals : Concise Color Guides, [a/k/a MEDALS, Longmeadow Press via Aldino LTD., 192 pages, see my review], a 1993 vest-pocket tome that handsomely covers mainly top-flight military medals from all the European countries plus the Vatican. No phalerist can be without both these books, though there are now far better books on the subject of the actual medals and awards themselves.