Bottoms Up!


Fifties German Mouth-Blown Glass Stein with Botanical Hand-Enameling (LEO Design)


The word "Stein" derives from the German word Steinkrug meaning "stoneware jug" (stein = stone and krug = jug). Despite the name, German steins have been made of many different materials over the years: wood, ceramic (stoneware), glass (crystal), or metal. And, while they originated as simple, uncovered drinking vessels, today we think of the classic stein as being highly-decorated and covered (usually with a metal lid).  That lid became popular in the 1300's—during the Plague—in order to keep fleas and flies (believed to transmit the bubonic bacteria) out of one's beer.

I am no expert in steins. But I liked this one when it crossed my path.  I appreciated the apparent age of the mouth-blown glass (complete with chunky pontil mark) and the ambitious hand-painted enameling which embellishes the glass.

Dating this stein has been difficult for me.  The glass looks quite old. It exhibits many little bubbles and inclusions within the glass—and that big pontil mark on the bottom certainly implies some age. The painted "enameling," likewise, is difficult to date.  But the lid appears more modern.  It seems to be made out of "spun pewter" which could indicate mass production.  In summary, the glass looks like it's from the Nineteenth Century while the lid looks like it was made after World War II.  And, interestingly, it is WWII that may answer my question.  After the war, the various Allied countries subdivided (and occupied) Germany.  There was a significant American military presence in Germany in the late 1940's and early 1950's. American soldiers, stationed in Germany after the war, would want to bring home "exotic" gifts to their families, friends and lovers.  There's a good chance that this stein was sold to an American soldier who brought it back for his father or brother (or boyfriend). Whether the glass body was truly old or just made to look old, it could have been topped with a contemporary (1950's) pewter lid.  Either way, it's a nice object, exhibiting nice craftsmanship.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248