STEIN MATERIAL DEFINITIONS
A wide variety of materials have been
used to produce authentic German steins. Below we have listed and
briefly described the most prominent ones.
— A pliable compound consisting of tin, copper, and antimony. European
pewter has a minimum tin content of 92%. Copper and antimony are
added to harden the metal. The higher the tin content, the more
silver the final color. A common misconception is that all pewter
products contain lead. Although used in the past, lead is virtually
never used to create pewter steins. Primarily, steins are component
cast — that is, the lids, bodies, handles and special ornamentation
are separately made. Pewter is also occasionally rolled or hammered.
The final color is a result of the tin content, polishing and chemical
CRYSTAL — A clear, high-quality glass. Please don’t confuse this
with lead crystal, which is a material consisting of 24% or more
lead monoxide. The body is hand-cut, hand engraved
and/or patterned by the mold. They are case hardened, usually are
mouth-blown and often feature transparent coloring on the exterior
or the interior of the body.
GLASS — The least expensive of all popular materials. Unlike the
procedure for making stoneware, pewter, and crystal steins, glass
bodies and handles are formed in one mold. Also, the lids are often
attached by machine. The bodies are usually transfer-decorated and
the only hand work involved usually is the application of a decoration.
CERAMIC MATERIALS — Ceramic steins fall
into one of 5 categories according to the quality of the ceramic
mass, the raw materials, the firing temperature, the color, and
density of the mass:
- EARTHENWARE (German-Irdenware, Topferware)
— A colored mass that is porous (absorbs liquid) until it is glazed.
It is fired at a temperature around 1,000 degrees Centigrade.
- CERAMICS (German-Keramik) — Slightly
porous, light-colored ware, usually fired about 1,050 degrees
to 1,080 degrees Centigrade. It must be glazed to make it impermeable.
- CREAMWARE (German-Steingut/Feinsteingut)
— White earthenware with a lead glaze. Contains Kaolin (a fine
white clay). It is fired twice, once at 1,150 degrees to 1,180
degrees Centigrade without a glaze, then decorated, glazed and
fired again around 900 degrees to 1,000 degrees Centigrade.
- STONEWARE (German-Steinzeug) — Hard
material, fired in high temperature kilns generally around 1,200
degrees to 1,400 degrees Centigrade. At this temperature, stoneware
vitrifies (becomes glass-like). The resulting product is less
than 2% porous; therefore, glaze is not mandatory for a stoneware
stein. when glaze is used, it must be of a special quality to
withstand the high kiln temperature.
- PORCELAIN (German-Porzellan) — True
porcelain, known as hard paste, is made of Kaolin (white clay)
and Pentuntse (pulverized granite). When fired at a temperature
of 1,300 degrees to 1,400 degrees Centigrade, these ingredients
produce a white, more or less translucent, glass-like material.
courtesy of M. Cornell Steins
Additional stein information:
A Brief History of Steins
Stein Lid Classifications