(click on photos to enlarge image)
AUGUST WELLNER & SONS, SILVER PLATING FOUNDRY IN AUE,
The information about the August Wellner company in the
English (or American) literature is extremely scarce. The
internet sites ebay.com and ebay.co.uk, while selling Wellner
pieces, advertise this firm mostly as a supplier of silver
pieces for the "German 3rd Reich High Command" or "Hitler and
the Nazi Party". Very often the usual silver-plated Wellner
pieces made for the transatlantic passengers in the beginning of
XXth century are passed off as being issued for Hitler troops.
For example, the wide-spread logo HAL which means
Holland-America Line (by other sources, Hamburg-America Line or
Hamburg-Amerika Linie) is transformed by careless sellers to LAH
(Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler). It is needless to say that the
prices for such “historical” silver-plated items are in the
order of hundreds of dollars. Therefore, one of my primary goals
while writing this paper (and the accompanying one on Wellner
marks) was to give a more correct picture of this nearly
Closing the introduction, I wish to remind readers of a few
important facts regarding the 160 year long history of the
Wellner company. The factory August Wellner & Sons was always
one of Germany's largest manufacturers of cutlery and hotel
tableware dating back to imperial times. Its products were
world-renowned for their high quality and beautiful styles. In
1911, the factory August Wellner & Sons became one of the
greatest silver-plating enterprises in the world, yearly
producing 3 million dozen of cutlery . In 1913 the company
employed 5000 people . The firm supplied many European luxury
hotels, among them Grand Hotel in
Lido in Venice, Baur au Lac in Zurich, Hotel Kempinski in Berlin,
Kurhaus in Davos, Maloja Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, to name but
a few. The great passenger liners, such as Titanic (UK),
Imperator (Germany), Saturnia and Vulcania (Italy), used Wellner
cutlery in their restaurants.
Alpacca alloy and silver plating
The famous August Wellner metal goods factory was founded by
August Wellner's father, Christian Gottlieb Wellner, in the small town
of Aue (Saxony, Germany), embedded in the wooded hills of the
Erzgebirge (which translates in English to Ore Mountains). This
part of Germany was traditionally involved in the smelting
business. As early as 1663 a tin foundry was established in Aue
(which means "flood plain"), which was in operation until 1803.
Fifty years after closure the factory buildings were used as a
starting point for the August Wellner metal goods factory.
However, before this happened, an important invention was made
in the neighbouring city of Schneeberg ("snow mountain"). In
1823, the German chemist Dr. Ernst August Geitner (1783-1852)
 developed a new alloy, very similar in its appearance to
silver, but significantly cheaper. Therefore, he called this
alloy "Argentan". It consisted of 20% nickel, 55% copper and 25%
zinc. Later, in 1829, Dr. Geitner established his Argentan
foundry in the Aue suburb of Auerhammer.
Portrait of Dr. Ernst August Geitner, inventor of Neusilber .
The new silver-imitating alloy soon became very popular. The
foundry Henninger Brothers (Gebruder Henninger) in Berlin
proposed a similar alloy (5-30% nickel, 45-70% copper and 8-45%
zinc with trace amounts of lead, tin and iron) in 1854 ,
which was called "Neusilber". Later both Argentan and Neusilber
were used in Germany and Austria-Hungary under the trade name of
Alpacca which corresponds to the name of the animal pasturing on
South American Andes of Chile, Bolivia and Peru, Alpaca in
As this new alloy was quite similar in appearance to genuine
silver, some people got the idea of using it as a base metal for
future plating with a thin silver layer. Such silver-plating
could be done by different methods but the high-voltage
electrical deposition enjoyed wide application. By doing this
two goals were immediately reached: 1) the cost of the final
silver-plated product was decreased by 5-7 times due to the much
lower amount of silver used for plating; 2) the appearance of
the objects was as perfect as a silver one and did not change
significantly with the wearing away of the silver layer. As a
result, numerous silver-plating enterprises were founded in the
mid XIX century, among them the famous Hermann Krupp & Alexander
von Schoeller, Berndorf, Austria-Hungary (1843), Charles
Christofle, Paris, France (1844), Axel Gabriel Dufva, Stockholm,
Sweden (1847), Christian Gottlieb Wellner, Aue, Saxony (1854).
Carl August Wellner
The founder of the Aue metal factory Christian Gottlieb
Wellner (1795-1857)  started his career very early at the age
of 15. First he worked as a miner, then as a forester, later he
joined Geitner’s Argentanfabrik. He had six children, amongst
them two brothers, the elder one, Carl August (1824-1909, later
another transcription of his name, Karl August, was also used)
 and the younger one, Christian Gottlieb junior, who was born
in 1831. Both became silver plate manufacturers and settled in
Aue, but Carl was much more succesful. He attended school in Aue,
did an apprenticeship as a carpenter and acquired his master
degree in 1854. After the death of his father he inherited a
part of Argentanfabrik in Auerhammer. In 1858 Carl August
returned back home after three years of wandering (a kind of
pilgrimage mixed with probation) and took this foundry under his
management. In 1862, he visited the Berlin Neusilberfabrik of
Henninger brothers to acquire specialised knowledge about the
further processing of Argentan into sheets and finished products.
On 13th July 1851 Karl August married Karoline Schott from
Bärenwalde ("bear forests"). In the following years he fathered
five sons: Ernst Emil (1853-1911), Albin Ernst (1858-1925), Gustav Emil (1860-1929), Hermann (1862-1890), Richard Paul (1866-1925) and a daughter Ida Marie (1864-1943).
Carl August continuously struggled for the expansion and
technical innovation of his business. The starting point of
Wellner's world class machinery was the acquisition of a spoon
roller mill and a new spindle press. In 1870 he acquired the
building of "alte Langmühle" (old long mill) in Aue for 9000
Talers (German currency at that time), in order to exploit
hydro-power (water power) for more energy independence .
However, all his plans were difficult to put into the practice
due to dry summers and the war between Germany and France, which
caused an increase in metal prices. His hardest stroke of fate
was in 1872 when he lost his beloved wife Karoline due to a
tragic accident at the plant. Karoline was actively involved in
the shaping of spoons, got caught in one of the cog wheels of
the press gear box and was killed. After that, in 1874, Carl
sold this ill-fated Langmühle to the weaver Geissler for 18000
Talers . He however stayed as a tenant in Langmühle for
another ten years before he acquired a meadow of 5700 square meters
below the Schmelzhütte (smelter),
which became the central site of his enormous (by that time)
factory. Plans for the new factory building included a new
roller mill and wire drawing plants as well as high power steam
Carl August Wellner was a very talented craftsman and inventor
and was always very supportive of other smaller Aue companies
such as the machine factory Schorler & Steubler, the tin
manufacture Karl Fischer, the fabric factory Simon Brothers, to
name a few. They worked under his auspices and Wellner
encouraged them to found independent business solutions and
become self-employed. August Wellner liked to work as a
cabinetmaker, especially for the production of so-called Vienna
chairs, hence he kept a joint venture with chair manufacturer
Christian Becher . Later the two partners separated, because
Wellner was concerned with chair quality and Becher with their
quantity. After his wife's tragic death, August Wellner passed
on his chair and
furniture manufacture to his favourite son Ernst. Ernst's
company was officially independent but unofficially was always
supported by the metal works of his father. August Wellner was
very committed to helping the chair manufacture which partly
used the new site (newly acquired meadow) for this purpose. He
built a new plant for wood machining with three reciprocating
saws. In contrast the new silver ware manufacture was first
housed in a somewhat unimpressive building complex with only a
few hand presses and metal sanding-polishing machines .
If August Wellner had put all his efforts from the very
beginning into "Edelwarenfabrikation" (silver metal works),
rather than into supporting other activities, e.g. wood
machining, he would have become a famous entrepreneur much
earlier. Despite the continuous advancements of his company
since 1860 the scale of the company's turnover remained
relatively modest due to the lack of trading skills in business.
The reason for this was the complete neglect of the commercial
side of its operation. Indeed, although August Wellner was a
top-class craftsman, he was a rather poor businessman. For
example, he was strongly against employing accountants; as a
result this part of work dealing with
business/trading/accounting had to be done on the side by his
fourth son Hermann and his daughter Marie (during their
In 1887 the "full-time" tradesman Karl Krause from Leipzig was
hired as a sole distributor of the entire new-silver production
. Formally a branch of August Wellner's company was founded
in Leipzig, which was headed by Krause. In practice, however,
this was a "one-sided treaty". Wellner delivered all his
products to Krause at fixed prices and Krause sold the products
at arbitrary prices. In retrospect, notwithstanding
the fact that Krause was a serious and distinguished
businessman, highly rated by Wellner, he should have paid higher
prices to Wellner to help him to expand his silver production.
Certainly, both sides could have benefited from it. When Krause
joined the company there were 18 employees and 35 children (school
pupils) working in the factory, when Krause died (in 1892),
there were 50 full-time employees . In 1891 the annual wages
were 50,000 Marks (German currency of that time), the turnover
that year was 180,000 Marks .
Photograph of August Wellner, taken
Under the photograph there is an inscription:
Karl August Wellner, pioneer of German cutlery
2 May 1824 - 25 May 1909.
In 1892, Karl August Wellner formally transferred the
management of his factory to two sons: Albin and
Paul, and daughter Marie, but still retained his personal
guidance until 1895 . Two years before his death in 1909, he
was able to see his life achievement, his famous plant, being
August Wellner's gravestone in Aue
cemetery. Below the portrait of August Wellner
there is a
contour of a new factory building built in
1897-1907 (see below).
The photograph was taken by
Angela Monika Arnold in 2009 .
The achievements of Karl August Wellner are well known and
widely recognised. In compiling this paper, I wanted to pay
tribute to his much less known successor, Paul Gaedt, who played
a major role in the succesful continuation of the factory
business after the retirement of August Wellner in 1895.
The family of Peter Paul Gaedt (1867-1948)  originated
from the Rostock area. His grandfather and father kept a tannery
in Gerberbruch. Because of the decline in the tannery business,
their son/grandson graduated after completing a training school
for plumbers. Looking for a job after two years of wandering,
Paul Gaedt came to Aue on 2 January 1890. Here he found work in
the sheet metal and metal goods factory Max Boehme, and later
became acquainted with two sons of Carl August Wellner, Ernst
and Hermann. That led to a relationship with Carl August's
daughter Ida Marie. Soon Paul Gaedt gave up his position at the
Max Boehme and began working with Wellner.
After his engagement to Ida Marie in 1890, on behalf of his
future father-in-law, Gaedt continued his pilgrimage to acquire
additional skills, especially belt-making. He came via Carlsbad
and Prague to Vienna. A relative of Paul Gaedt gave him a job in
the famous Artur Krupp factory in Berndorf . He became
acquainted with the modern cutlery manufacturing process and to
improve these skills went further to the Christofle foundry in
Paris. However, later that year Karl August Wellner called him
back to Aue, because his son Hermann had died of blood poisoning.
Hermann Wellner fulfilled accounting and administrative
functions in the Wellner company and these were now transferred
to Gaedt. In 1891 Paul married Ida Marie Wellner and became
co-owner of the thriving cutlery factory and later the president
of the August Wellner & Sons company.
At the beginning of his career, Paul Gaedt efficiently
eliminated the economic difficulties which had threatened the
company through the existing exclusive contract with Karl Krause.
On 20th October 1892, Gaedt erased the previous name of the firm
August Wellner from the Register and instead registered Saxon
Metal Goods Factory August Wellner & Sons as a start-up company
. Thus this "one-sided" contract became invalid, which was
extremely important for the survival and further economic
development of the company. Paul Gaedt received the full trading
rights for the company Wellner. Under Gaedt's leadership, a new
factory building was created (in 1897-1907 [7,8]), necessary
machinery and implements were purchased and product distribution
was extended throughout Europe. In 1913 Gaedt accomplished the
conversion of the former private company into a stock
corporation Sächsische Metallwarenfabrik August Wellner Söhne
Aktiengesellschaft (AG), or Saxon Metal Goods Factory August
Wellner and Sons joint-stock company.
Building of August Wellner & Sons'
Saxony Metal Goods Factory in Aue,
in 1897-1907. Note the elephant bas-relief
on the pediment of a corner building.
The photograph was taken by Angela Monika Arnold in
The cupola of the building of
Saxony Metal Goods Factory August Wellner & Sons in
The photograph was taken by Angela Monika Arnold in
The entrance to the building of
Saxony Metal Goods Factory August Wellner & Sons in Aue.
left bas-relief there is a stone with a
date 1907, which probably relates to the
accomplishment of the
This is a fragment of the photograph which was taken
by Angela Monika Arnold in 2008 .
The marvellous Art Nouveau 1000 Mark
share of Saxon Metal Goods Factory August Wellner
by the renowned E.A. Brockhaus Publishing House in
Leipzig, Germany. This share is dated 23rd
1913. Note two cornucopias (horns of plenty) with cutlery
and hollowware coming out.
In the oval,
the sketch of a new factory building in
Aue is placed. Below, there are three portraits of August Wellner
his sons Albin and Paul.
Above the oval, there is a portrait of Paul Gaedt.
The 60th Gaedt birthday in 1927 was celebrated with a big
party. In subsequent years of the world economic crisis Gaedt
organised a number of loans from large banks to ensure the
survival of the factory. In 1936 Paul Gaedt transferred the
management of the company to the former chairman Francis Cramer.
Gaedt retired and soon had to accept that the cutlery factory
Wellner partially produced war products and therefore was
expropriated by the end of the Second World War. His house in
Aue and that of his daughter were seized by the Soviet occupying
power. After that this highly-respectable retired boss was
forced to settle in his garden shed, but later moved to the
house of his daughter’s family in Glauchau where he died in
1948. He is buried in the family tomb in Glauchau-Reinhold grove.
After the end of World War II the Aue factory continued to
operate and soon became the largest cutlery producer in GDR,
employing over a thousand people; however, the name of the
company was changed again in 1958 to VEB Auer Besteckund
Silberwarenwerke (ABS) or in English “Aue Cutlery and Silver
Items Company”. The company held this name until 1992 , when
it was changed back to Wellner Bestecke und Silberwaren, GmbH,
Aue (Wellner Cutlery and Silver Items, Ltd., Aue). After the
reunification of Germany (in 1989) the company passed through a
number of mergers and bankruptcy. The silver-plating factory in
Aue was closed in 2001, but manufacturing of cutlery under the
Wellner mark is still continuing in neighbouring Schneeberg. The
new name of the company is Wellner/ABS GmbH (Wellner/ABS Ltd.) .
Silver content standards used for cutlery
August Wellner & Sons pioneered also in the standardisation
of silver content in their silver-plated cutlery products. Before 1911
the following standards for silver content
1) WS grade or "Wellner Silber" (Wellner Silver), the highest
quality standard, which corresponds to 100 grams of silver being
used for the plating of two dozen pieces of cutlery;
2) ES grade or "Extra Stark versilbert" (Extra Strong silvering), which corresponds to
90 grams of silver being used for the plating of two dozen
pieces of cutlery;
3) I grade (First Grade), which corresponds to 60 grams of
silver being used for the plating of two dozen pieces of cutlery;
4) II grade (Second Grade), which corresponds to 48 grams of
silver being used for the plating of two dozen pieces of cutlery;
5) Pure Alpacca, which means that no silver was used for plating.
The most expensive was of course "Wellner Silver", which was
advertised by the factory as "a perfect surrogate for genuine
silver" with a 20 year guarantee . According to , in 1910
one dozen pieces of silver-plated cutlery made by August Wellner
& Sons and covered with WS grade plating cost 32 marks. At the
same time the same amount of cutlery plated with ES grade
coating cost 30 marks, with I grade coating 26 marks, with II
grade coating 22.80 marks and the dozen pieces of cutlery made
of pure Alpacca (uncoated) cost only 11 marks.
Heraldry of the August Wellner & Sons factory
In the interim between the XIXth and XXth centuries it was
common practice for jewellery companies to introduce some
specific elements into the firm mark and use these elements in
the catalogues and for advertisements. For example,
Austria-Hungarian foundry Artur Krupp Berndorf used in its marks
the profile of the bear, the French company Widow Charles
Halphen – the image of the goat head, while German Württemberg
Metal Factory applied the profile of the running ostrich. August
Wellner & Sons firm used a number of such elements in their
heraldry, first of all the image of the elephant embodying the
strength of silver coating and the dice image symbolizing luck
and diversity. The first element was used mainly on cutlery
while the second mainly on table hollow ware products. Another
Wellner logo, the combination of the three letters "AWS" (August
Wellner Söhne which means August Wellner & Sons) was introduced
before 1914. Later, this logo was used together with a contour
of a saucepan placed behind. Finally, in the twenties, the image
of three elves bearing a knife, fork and spoon was introduced.
Now, I will give examples of the use of these elements by the
August Wellner & Sons company.
Heraldry in architecture
In 1907 the new factory building in Aue was completed. The
upper part of the corner (see photo above) is decorated with a
bas-relief of the elephant stepping on a dice. The entrance (see
photo above) possesses two bas-reliefs of man figures ("atlantes")
carrying the "Wellner dice" (left figure) or the elephant (right
figure). It should be noted that the dice is always fixed in one
and the same position: one pip is visible from the top, two pips
and four pips are visible from the side view, finally six pips
are visible from the bottom.
The bas-relief of the elephant
stepping on the dice
on the pediment
of corner building of Aue Metal
Goods Factory. The fragment
of the photograph taken by Angela
Monika Arnold in 2008 .
The bas-reliefs of the dice and
the elephant on the entrance of Aue Metal Goods
The fragments of the photographs taken by Angela
Monika Arnold in 2008 .
Heraldry in silver-plated advertisement items
Recently, at an ebay auction, a gorgeous silver-plated
elephant figurine treading on the dice was offered. On the
pedestal of this figurine, the following four inscriptions could
be seen: "Sächs. Metallwaren Fabrik", "August Wellner Söhne", "Aue
i./Sa.", and "Glückauf 1912". The first three letterings mean
Saxon Metal Factory August Wellner and Sons, Aue in Saxony. The
forth lettering is the typical greeting for German miners,
finishing work and leaving the mine, which means "Happy reaching
the upper level!" or "Happy finishing the work!" If we remember
that Aue is situated in the Ore Mountains, then it is natural to
presume that this figurine was probably used to commemorate the
achievements of the Wellner foundry in 1912. A similar elephant
in the other ebay auction bears two letterings: "Wellner Silber"
(Wellner Silver) and "Weltmarke Wellner ist unübertrefflich"
(The worldrenowned Wellner brand is unbeatable!).
Silver-plated Wellner elephant
In my collection, there is a silver-plated knife for paper
cutting and/or envelope opening. Photographs of this knife
handle are given below. The inscriptions on this handle
correspond well to the inscriptions on the first elephant
figurine discussed above. This makes it possible to refer this
knife to same period, i.e. 1910-1915.
Inscriptions on the handle of
Wellner silver-plated paper knife.
Finally, some fragments of silver-plated ash-trays produced
by Wellner and used for the purpose of advertising are given
below. You can see the logo with three elves, the AWS logo and
the elephant silhouette.
Heraldry in advertising
The Wellner company also actively used its symbols in ads.
At my disposal there is an advertisement of Wellner products,
published in a local Saxony magazine in March 1925 .
Interestingly, here all four characteristic elements of Wellner
heraldry are used simultaneously.
Public advertisment of August Wellner
& Sons company published in 1925.
The inscription in the upper two lines means "Wellner
silver is the best surrogate for
genuine silver!" The inscription in the next three
lines means "Cutlery, Hotel- and
Tableware with unbeatable design and quality
Below, the number of working force, 4000 workers, is
Heraldry in the marks of silver-plated items
Of course, all the characteristic elements of Wellner
heraldry: the dice, the elephant, the AWS logo and the three
elves, mentioned above, were widely used in the marks of August
Wellner & Sons factory. My accompanying article in
Member's Window of the same issue of ASCAS Newsletter
thoroughly discusses all known marks of silver-plated hollowware
used by this company. Here I would like to draw your attention
to the beautiful cutlery mark found on the Art Nouveau Wellner
ladle, issued in the beginning of XXth century.
Wellner hollow ware items from my collection
The hollow ware
silver-plated products issued by the August Wellner & Sons
company are notable for their excellent long-lasting quality
which is due to the thickness of the silver layer and the
thorough respect of plating technology. Concluding the article,
I wish to present some remarkable items from my collection, made
about 110, 100, 90 and 80 year ago.
I am grateful to Dr. Albert A. Ruth for his invaluable help
in the translation of German sources and to Ms. Irene Horne for
her careful reading of my manuscript. My e-mail address is email@example.com.
Any comments, questions or letters with additional information
are very welcome. However, please do not send any requests for
valuation and/or expertise, such letters will be ignored.
 Reinhard W. Sänger, Das Deutsche Silber-Besteck,
Stuttgart, Arnoldsche, 1991, 1-286, (in German). English
translation of the title: German Silver Cutlery.
 Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, Claudia Kanowski, Modern Art
of Metallwork. Berlin, Bröhan Museum, 2001, 1-598.
 Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie. "Ernst August Geitner".
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_August_Geitner, 2011 (in
 Glückauf! Zeitschrift des Erzgebirgsvereins, vol.45, No.3,
pp.43-66, 1925 (in German). English translation of the title:
Glückauf! Journal of Ore Mountains Association.
 Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie. "Christian Gottlieb
2011 (in German).
 Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie. "Carl August Wellner".
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_August_Wellner, 2011 (in
 Dr. Dietrich von Nathusius, Deutsche Besteck-Industrie, Aue,
Auer Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft M.B.H., 1924, 1-40 (in
German). English translation of the title: German Cutlery
 Wikimedia Commons. "Wellner". http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wellner,
2009 (in German).
 Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie. "Peter Paul Gaedt".
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Paul_Gaedt, 2011 (in German).
 Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie. "Wellner". http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellner,
2012 (in German).
 Wellner/ABS GmbH aus Schneeberg.
http://www.original-wellner.de/, 2012 (in German).
Dr. David N. Nikogosyan
- 2012 -