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Beer Stein Material Definitions

Aug 17, 2007
Although there are many types and styles of beer steins, the majority are made from the following types of materials.

Pewter

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 antiquing.

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 five categories according to the quality of the ceramic mass, the raw materials, the firing temperature, the color, and density.

-- Earthenware
(German-Irdenware, Topferware) - A colored mass that is porous (absorbs liquid) until is is glazed. It is fired at a temperature around 1,000 degrees celsius.

--Ceramics
(German-Keramik) - Slightly porous, light-colored ware, usually fired at about 1,050 - 1,080 degrees celsius. 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 - 1,180 degrees celsius without a glaze, then decorated, glazed and fired again around 900 - 1,000 degrees celsius.

-- Stoneware
(German-Steinzeug) - Hard material, fired in high temperature, kilns generally around 1,200 - 1,400 degrees celsius. At this temperature, stoneware vitrifies (becomes glasslike). The resulting product is less than 2 percent porous, therefore, glaze is not mandatory for a stoneware stein. When glaze is used, it must be of special quality to withstand the high kiln temperature.

-- Porcelain
(German-Porzellan) - True porcelain, known as hard paste, is made of Kaolin (white clay) and Petuntse (pulverized granite). When fired at a temperature of 1,300 - 1,400 degrees celsius, these ingredients produce a white, more or less translucent, glasslike material.
About the Author
Evelyn Whitaker writes articles for German Toasting Glasses http://www.german-toasting-glasses.com which specializes in custom engraved wedding gifts from Germany.
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