Volume 4 Issue 9
One of the most horrific historic events brought the stein into use. The bubonic plague killed more than 25 million Europeans in the mid to late 1300's. In the summers of Europe a large number of little flies invaded central Europe. They were attributed, in part, to the spread of the plague. In the 1500's laws were passed that all foods and beverages were to be covered to keep out these insects. Hence, the invention of the stein; a mug with a hinged lid.
Everyone had to have a covered drinking vessel. The search for a suitable material to make the steins was on. The well-to-do had pewter or glass and the wealthiest had silver steins. Those made of pewter, silver, or glass were too expensive for the common user. Some were made of wood or earthenware, which were very porous and after several uses gave off a bad odor.
After much experimentation, stoneware steins were produced that would not so easily be broken or chipped and were not porous. Obviously, these were more costly, but also were more able to be decorated with various carvings and glazes. These glazes were produced over a period of several hundred years. Having a personal, highly decorated stein, eventually became a status symbol.
Since the inception of the stein, there have been many transitions of materials used and by many different countries. Some of the countries being Germany, China, England, Scandanavia, and finally Japan and Brazil.
China made porcelain, but its production was interrupted by rebellions during the 1600's. Germany began the making of faience, a porcelain substitute. By the time China was able to restore its production of porcelain, the use of German Faience was well established. Some of the porcelain steins have lithophane bases. The English and Scandinavians were experienced in making pewter and silver steins. The Scandinavians also produced a well-made all wooden stein, but these were no longer made after the 1800's. Another material , but rare, is the ivory stein. It was only used by the exceptionally wealthy.
Collecting of antique steins began in the early 1900's. During that time reproductions were being made and were usually clearly marked as such. However, there were some unmarked steins reproduced of those that were made of Renaissance stoneware, early pewter, and rare faience pieces that had brought high prices in the marketplace.
America has played a role in the primary market for new beer steins in the last forty years of most types of steins, especially the limited editions.
The words "Geschutz" or Musterschutz" on a stein are the German words for patented or registered design, not the company names.
Steins used to hold ale or beer usually range in size from 3/10 and 1/4 liter to 1, 1-1/2, 2, 3, 4, and 5 liters and rarely 8 liters. ( A liter is 1.05 liquid quarts.)
A master stein(or pouring stein), called a krug, holds 3-5 liters.
To view some examples of many types of steins:
Kovels Antiques & Collectibles Price List
Warman's Antiques And Collectibles Price Guide - 32nd Edition
Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide - Eighteenth Edition
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