Because of the Order's relatively small membership, actual surviving examples of The Order's insignia from its earliest period are rare but not unknown. Some of the variations seen in The Order's early insignia can be attributed to the fact that most of it was custom made for individual members of the Order by jewelers who had never seen an actual example. The Order did specify in its 1793 Abrégé (Abridged Rules of the Order) that members could request insignia from a Mr. Jean Gottlob Grellmann, the banker of The Order, at Hamburg, although many apparently chose to have their insignia custom made locally by various Court jewelers, likely working only from drawings and descriptions. Although unauthorized, individual embellishments to the approved design occurred.
The awarded example of the neck cross belonging to Philip d'Auvergne, Prince de Boullion and Rear-admiral of the Blue is preserved in the museum of the island of Jersey, where he was Governor. He also wore the breast cross similar to that of Nelson on his admiral's uniform. The museum note in the below photo is wrong about the date of the award to D'Auvergne. It was actually 1806-07 and not 1803.
Lord Horatio Nelson's breast cross has been preserved in a photograph taken at the end of the 1800s. This is one of a set of medals that was presented to him in 1802 and came directly from The Grand Chapter on his being made a Knight Grand Commander of The Order of Saint Joachim. The original was stolen in 1900 and has never been recovered. The photograph shows his breast cross as somewhat plainer than the above example, with the Order's other motto - JUNXIT AMICUS AMOR - surrounding the centrepiece, with the date 1755 at the bottom. In the centre, likely hand painted on enamel, is a version of the cross-pattee of the order surrounded by laurel leaves. The arms of the cross are in patterned silver brightwork.
Horatio Nelson had several tinsel or wire versions made of his Saint Joachim breast star, and wore the insignia from 1802 until his death. An embroidered version was lighter and more practical than a heavy metal award, and Nelson had all four of his orders of knighthood rendered in sequins, silk, velvet and bullion embroidery for semi-permanent attachment to his uniform. Nelson typically did not wear the metal version of his insignia pictured below left, instead preferring to wear a wire-embroidered or "tinsel" version on his uniform coat.
A photograph of Nelson's grand cross of The Order of Saint Joachim also exists, taken at the same time as the photo of the breast cross, above. The grand cross - worn over the shoulder on a broad, dark green ribbon - is shown suspended from the knightly helm hanger described and shown above by Perrot in 1821. At some point prior to being photographed it was removed and incorrectly reattached backwards to the hanger, as in the photograph the reverse of the cross is shown instead of the correct figure of St. Joachim that should be on the front.
The reverse shows a cross that follows the example in the 1787 guidebook of the Order, surrounded by a thin line of laurel leaves. The smaller cross patée should be in green, but it is impossible to tell from the black and white photograph.
On March 15, 1806, French calvary general and Marshal of France Joachim Murat, brother-in-law of Napoleon, unilaterally assumed the Grandmastership of the Order of Saint Joachim after being given the land and possessions of the Order's existing Grand Master, the Count zu Leiningen. As Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves, Murat adopted the Order of Saint Joachim and revised the statutes to allow him to admit any holder of the French Legion of Honour. He proceeded to award the Order of Saint Joachim to a large number of French generals and officers, particularly his former friends and comrades in the cavalry. His "Order" does not appear to have functioned as a true order, but rather as a personal award given out at the sole discretion of Murat.
Murat made subtle changes to the Order's insignia, including a rosette on the ribbon and a variation of the breast star which uses an eight-pointed "Maltese cross" instead of the proper cross-pattee of the Order, and added gold and silver rays between the arms of the cross. The French example of The Order's breast cross for Knights Commander, shown left, uses The Order's older motto - DEO, PRINCIPI, LEGI.
In 1809 Murat left the Grand Duchy of the Berg and Cleves to become Napoleon's puppet King of Naples. It is unknown if he also left behind his Grandmastership of the Order of Saint Joachim, however there are several contemporary accounts that refer to the Order of Saint Joachim as "The Order of Saint Joachim of Naples" indicating he was still associated with the Order in some way. Murat was executed in 1815 after a popular uprising, effectively ending his supposed Grandmastership, although French generals continued to wear the Order of Saint Joachim along with their other awards long after the defeat of Napoleon as shown in the many portraits of them.
Even while Murat was claiming to be Grand Master of the Order and awarding his Order of Saint Joachim to his French friends and colleagues, the original (and genuine) Order of Saint Joachim now in exile from the Grand Master's lands continued to make awards, particularly to the enemies of Napoleon. English Rear-admiral Philip D'Auvergne at first refused to accept the award of the Order of Saint Joachim, thinking it was associated with Murat, the enemy he was fighting. Assured that Murat was an usurper and the Order of Saint Joachim was the enemy of France, D'Auvergne eventually accepted the award and received permission from the King of England to wear it on his admiral's uniform.