Beer Stein Collector’s Glossary*

Compiled by Gary Kirsner

Allegory — the representation of incidents, scenes, or characters in a way that evokes a dual interest, providing both aesthetic enjoyment and a deeper intellectual interpretation.

Apostelkrug — a stout-shaped stein with the Apostles in relief around its body.

Art Nouveau — literally modern style, the bold and flat sinuous motifs abstractly based upon seaweed and other plant forms; this style was popular from 1895 to 1915 and was a rebellion against the derivative style of Historicism; see periods.

Baluster shape — bulbous in the middle with a thinned neck and pedestal base; a popular shape for early earthenware vessels.

Baroque — an ornate, florid, flamboyant style popular from 1600-1770; see periods.

Beaker — a cup-like drinking vessel, sometimes with a handle but never with a lid; contrast with mug, pokal, and stein.

Biedermeier — a peasant style of folk art that was important from 1810-1850; a provincial, rustic, sturdy functionalism favored by the new middle class; see periods.

Blockzinn — see pewter purities.

Britannia metal — alloy of tin and antimony.

Cameo — a type of stein design with low relief made from a translucent, porcelain-like material that allows contrasting background colors to show through the thinnest areas; compare with relief.

Character stein or figural stein — a stein with a shape designed to represent a person, animal, or object, often a personified object.

Chinoiseries — style of design popular in the 1700s depicting Chinese genre scenes and Chinese landscapes; see periods.

Chip-carving or Kerbschnitt — a pattern of vertical creases, sometimes hand-cut, sometimes simulated with a mold.

Clay glaze — see glaze.

Clay slip or colored slip — see slip.

Cold painting — a non-durable method of stein decorating that does not require firing; uses varnishes or gold leaf.

Crack — an open break; contrast with hairline.

Double firing — the process of firing biscuit (unglazed) pottery, then glazing, decorating and refiring.

Earthenware — porous ceramic material fired to only about 800°C (1500°F); sometimes made impervious to liquids by the addition of a lead glaze, as in Hafner ware and folk pottery; see stoneware.

Edelzinn, Engelmarke and Englischzinn — see pewter purities.

Enamel — painted decoration, usually on glass.

Engobe — see slip, colored.

Engraved — use of abrasive material to cut lines, ornaments, or script into a hard surface.

Etched — a type of stein decoration with uniformly colored design areas distinctively incised with black outlining.

Faience — a porous earthenware glazed with a white tin oxide (stanniferous); originally a porcelain substitute first made in Faenza, Italy.

Feinzinn — see pewter purities.

Finial — a figural representation positioned at the top of a stein; usually a person, animal, acorn or hops.

Footring — a pewter collar applied around the base of some steins to protect them from chipping and wear; see pewter mountings.

Four F or 4F — a symbol of the German gymnastic or athletic society; the Fs are flipped in a pattern that puts all their corners together making a cross shape; 4F stands for Frisch, Fromm, Froh, Frei, meaning alert, devout, joyful, free.

Form number or mold number — usually an incised number in the base of a stein used to identify the mold from which it was made, thus providing a catalog number.

Gambrinus — legendary king of Flanders who supposedly discovered beer; the subject of many stein decorations.

Glaze — a hard, impervious coating fired on to ceramic materials, it can be clear or colored, transparent or opaque, matte or glossy; clay glazes are like slips and were used on very early ceramics, other glazes are all forms of glass made from powdered glass, feldspar, borax, salts, or metal oxides; lead glaze is found on Hafner ware and folk pottery; leopard glaze is a strong brown-speckled saltglaze found especially on Frechen wares; saltglazes are produced by pouring large quantities of salt into the furnace at its peak firing temperature — the sodium chloride reacts with water (hydrogen oxide) to produce a glassy coating (sodium oxide) and hydrochloric acid vapors; tin glaze, as commonly used on faience, is made from tin oxide.

Greenware — formed pottery that is air dried but unfired and, thus, still raw clay.

Hafner ware — lead-glazed earthenwares, including steins, made by potters best known for their oven tiles.

Hairline — a closed break that sometimes shows as a thin black line in ceramic materials; contrast with crack.

Handpainted — a type of ware that is either glazed and fired or just cold painted with a design.

Hausmalers or studio painters — after the Thirty Years’ War (in the mid-1600s), houses were often rebuilt to include artists’ studios; the artists who occupied them decorated mostly porcelain or faience wares, working as independent craftsmen in their own home studios.

Hinge — a device, usually pewter, that enables the lid to swivel open on a stein.

Historicism — the style of art that dominated the Continent from about 1840 to 1910; it sought a return to the Renaissance as exhibited through powerful sculptural forms, complicated outlines and friezes, and deep reliefs or contrasting shadows; it originated with the archeological findings of numerous awe-inspiring Renaissance artifacts and, in response, art schools began instructing pupils by having them copy the forms and ornaments of these artifacts; see periods.

Incised — refers to the lines in unfired ceramic material that were created by using a stamp, press, or mold; sometimes used synonymously with etched.

Inlay — the name of a type of lid for steins that have an insert, usually ceramic, porcelain, or glass, set into the pewter or silver flange of the lid; or inlay can be a decorative technique in which one material has been inlaid into another so as to help form the design, such as pewter inlaid wood; contrast with overlay.

Ivory stoneware or yellow stoneware — a fine, light-colored clay fired as stoneware and used to make many steins from about 1850 to the present; frequently referred to as pottery.

Kayser-Zinn — not a measure of the quality of the pewter but rather indicative of manufacture by the J.P. Kayser Company in Krefeld-Bockum between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, many pieces are in the Art Nouveau style.

Krug — literally a jug, but often used to indicate a large, or master, stein.

Liter or L — the metric measure of capacity, slightly more than a quart (1.057 quarts = 1 liter).

Lithophane — a porcelain panel with a relief decoration that is visible when light passes through it; often found in the bottom of porcelain steins; lithophane molds were taken from beeswax carvings made over lighted panels.

Luster — a metal oxide decoration fired onto a stein; including occasional platinum accents on early Mettlach steins, metal alkali sheens all over some glass steins, and many other types.

Mettlach — village on the bank of the Saar River in West Germany where Villeroy & Boch has one of their ceramics factories; commonly used as the name of the steins from that factory.

Mosaic — a type of stein on which colored glazes are painted into ridged sections that protrude from the stoneware or pottery.

Muffle-fired — a lower temperature third firing achieved by protecting the ceramic materials from the main heat of the kiln by placing them behind muffling fire bricks, or chamotte capsules; this process made an almost unlimited range of glaze colors available.

Mug — a cup, usually cylindrical, with a handle; a lidded mug is a mug with a set-on lid (not hinged), often used in spas for mineral water; contrast with beaker and stein.

Munich Child, Munich Maid or Munich Monk — a common theme on steins, the symbol of the city of Munich, supposedly showing a monk’s robe on the first child born in Munich after the massacre in the 10th Century.

Musterschutz — literally means copyright protection, but occasionally used almost as if it were a factory name; most frequently found on porcelain character steins made by Schierholz.

Occupational stein — a stein with a decoration or shape that depicts or symbolizes an occupation, probably the occupation of the original owner of the stein.

Orivit — a pewter and silver alloy mostly used around 1900.

Overglaze — a special glass and flux mixture that provides a clear glossy coating that provides extra sheen and vividness to ceramic materials.

Overlay, filigree or latticework — an ornamental openwork of intricate design, usually made from pewter, applied to the outside of a stein.

Pate-sur-pate — marbleized porcelain, usually green and white.

Patina — an oxidation layer on metals; often indicates evidence of age.

Periods or styles — the names of the different types of fashionable art, see Art Nouveau, Baroque, Biedermeier, Chinoiseries, Historicism, Renaissance, and Rococo for the most important stein styles.

Pewter — a very workable metallic alloy containing as much as 90% tin, with the remainder made up of lead, copper, zinc, nickel, bismuth, or antimony; see the following two entries.

Pewter mountings — includes the footring and all the pewterwork that is used to attach the lid to the handle of a stein; the attaching pewterwork has its own terminology that is important in describing damage and repairs; the strap encircles the handle, and a usually triangular strap support runs somewhat down the outside of the handle; the shank goes from the strap to the hinge; a hinge pin will show on most steins made after about 1860; it will not show on earlier steins; an odd number of rings or teeth make up the hinge; the tang proceeds from the hinge to the lid rim; the thumblift can be over the hinge or fastened to the rim; if there is an inlay, a pewter flange will hold it in place; the top of some all-pewter lids may contain an ornate pewter finial.

Pewter purities — have been carefully marked since the Middle Ages when lead and other impurities were suspected of being health threats; Bergzinn, Blockzinn, Feinzinn and Klar und Lauter Zinn are pewters that are quite pure and known to contain very small quantities of copper or brass (copper and tin alloy); often they had to contain no recycled pewter; Engelmarke or Angel-marked is Feinzinn from the 1700s or 1800s that is marked with an angel and sword and scales (or trumpet and palm frond); Englischzinn or English Pewter is Feinzinn certified to also be lead-free; Rosenmarke or Rose-marked is a touchmark for Englisch Zinn; Probezinn contains lead but no more than 1/5 or a 4-tin-to-1-lead ratio, Nürnberger Probe is 10-to-1, Kölnische Probe is 6-to-1, Frankfurter Probe is 4-to-1; Edelzinn is from the 1800s and contains too much lead to allow the item to be used as a utensil; Geringes Zinn, Mankgut or Low Pewter may contain as much as 50% lead and is occasionally found in thumblifts or applied relief on steins; see also Britannia metal and Orivit.

Pokal or brimmer — a large ceremonial handleless beaker with a separate set-on lid and, usually, a pedestal base.

Porcelain — a vitrified, fine white clay, quartz, and feldspar mixture that has a hard surface; hard porcelain is fired to about 1450°C (2650°F) while soft porcelain is fired to about 1200°C (2200°F); compare with stoneware and pottery.

Porcellaine — another name for faience, which was originally intended as a porcelain substitute.

Pottery or Steingut — a rather imprecise term for a usually light-colored porous ceramic with a hardness dependent upon the temperature of the firing, from 960°C (1800°F) to 1300°C (2350°F); generally used to include all tan-colored ceramic materials.

Print over glaze — a transfer decoration fired over the glaze.

Print under glaze, PUG, transfer-printed, or transfer-decorated — the name for a process of decoration that takes handpainted, silk-screened, or printed decals and transfers those decals to a smooth surface, then fires them in place.

Probe — a mark occasionally found on trial or test pieces; Probe can also refer to the lead content of pewter; see pewter purities.

Prunts, bosses or Nuppen — glass drops, sometimes with an impressed design, found attached to the sides of glass vessels as decoration.

Pug mill — a device somewhat like a blender, but very large and previously horse driven, used for refining and mixing clay recipes.

Regimental stein, reservist stein or military stein — a stein that was purchased as a souvenir of service in the military; most often refers to those purchased by reservists upon discharge from the Imperial German Armies in the years 1890 to 1914.

Relief — the name of a type of ware that has figures or designs of opaque material, usually tan or white, that stand out substantially from the smooth or textured background; compare with cameo.

Renaissance — the style of art and the name of the time period from about 1300 to 1600 that was characterized by a revival of the Classical influence and vigorous aesthetic and intellectual activities; see periods.

Reservist’s stein — see Regimental stein.

Rib — a wooden scraper or forming die, used for smoothing sides and forming the bands and moldings of steins on a potter’s wheel.

Rococo — the last, less colorful but more figurative, phase of the Baroque period, from about 1735-1770; see periods.

Rorken or sampler — a shape of stein that has a pedestal base then becomes slightly wider with height.

Saltglaze — formed when salt is added to the kiln to form a glassy mist that coats all the wares; should not be confused with painted metal oxide glazes such as cobalt oxide blues and manganese oxide violets that are merely glazes that can withstand the intense stoneware firing temperatures; see glazes.

Slip — a watered-down clay or porcelain recipe that is sufficiently liquid for use in coating, gluing, or casting pieces of ceramic material; clay slip, colored slip or engobe are terms employed to describe slips that have been combined with coloring agents to facilitate use primarily as decorative coatings or paints, such as clay glazes; see glazes, clay.

Slurry — a recipe consisting of clays, water, and other additives that have been filtered, mixed, and poured into backs, or settling tanks.

Smoother — either a wooden paddle for smoothing the sides of wet, freshly turned pottery, or the person who smooths out turning marks with a wet cloth.

Stack marks — firing variations on the bottom of stoneware or pottery steins that show how they were stacked in the kiln, occasionally circles or parts of two or three circles are seen on some very old steins.

Stein — literally meaning stone, is a shortened form of Steinzeugkrug or stoneware tankard; generally expanded to mean any drinking vessel with a handle and an attached lid; a lidless stein did have, or was intended to have, a lid that is now missing; contrast with mug, beaker and pokal.

Stoneware — a vitrified ceramic material, usually a silicate clay, that is very hard, rather heavy, and impervious to liquids and most stains; achieved at firing temperatures between 1200°C (2200°F) and 1300°C (2350°F); early stoneware, or Frühsteinzeug, did not quite reach those temperatures or was made from clays needing higher temperatures to vitrify, and was common from the 1300s to the early 1500s; color is usually gray or tan, but terra cotta and other colors were also made; see earthenware, pottery and porcelain.

Tankard — technically synonymous with stein, but since this was the British term, some reserve its use for the typically British silver or pewter steins.

Threading — a low, fine, wire-like relief decoration, with colors usually painted between the raised lines; the reverse of etching.

Thumblift — a figural representation positioned at the rear of the lid of the stein, generally above the hinge, usually a person, animal, acorn, hops, crest or allegorical character.

Touchmark — a small stamp, usually found on pewter, that may indicate the name or symbol of the master pewterer, his city, or the pewter’s purity.

Transfer-decorated or transfer-printed, see print under glaze.

Waldglas or forest glass — made from sand and wood ashes and generally having a grayish-green color with small impurities and air bubbles.

Walzenkrug, cylindrical tankard or straight-up tankard — a cylindrical stein about twice as high as it is wide; the most common shape in the 1700s.

White gold — a name that was used for porcelain, porcelain clays, or for the valuable stoneware clays with low vitrification temperatures and minimal warping and cracking potential.

Wiremark — concentric whorls on the base of some older stoneware or faience steins that indicates the “hump” was cut off the potter’s wheel by pulling a wire across the base of the turning piece, as opposed to being cut off with smooth knives.

Zigzag decor or Knibistechnik — decorative ribbons of tight, wide, incised zigzags made by waddling a wooden chisel across the surface of unfired clay.


*Reprinted by permission from The Beer Stein Book: a 400 Year History, 3rd edition, 1999, Glentiques, Ltd., Coral Springs, FL.