ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
ASSOCIATION OF SMALL COLLECTORS OF ANTIQUE SILVER
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by Dr. David N. Nikogosyan, Bonn, Germany
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MARKS OF EUROPEAN SILVER PLATE : XV.
WÜRTTEMBERGISCHE METALLWARENFABRIK (WMF)
Marks of Cutlery & Napkin Rings.

Thousands of people enjoy collecting German silver and silver-plated cutlery. Many German cutlery manufacturers reached the peak of their production just before the World War I. For example, the famous factory August Wellner Söhne in Aue, Saxony, had fabricated 3 million dozen of cutlery pieces (spoons, forks and knifes) in 1911 [1]. Simultaneously, this pre-war period (c.1890 - 1914) coincided well with the appearance and development of a new art style in Germany - "Jugendstil" (Art Nouveau in France, Secession in Austria-Hungary, Art and Crafts in Great Britain), see recent monograph of Barbara Grotkamp-Schepers and Reinhard W. Sänger [2]. It should be emphasized that the highest profit silver factories always received was not from the sterling-silver products but from the manufacture of silver-plated ones, which were by the order of magnitude cheaper and therefore had a much larger market. Hence the silver-plated cutlery was fabricated in great numbers and it was mostly subject to the design/fashion of the day. That, at the end of XIXth - beginning of XXth century, meant Jugendstil (Art Nouveau). Concluding, the German silver-plated cutlery was a mass-fabricated and at the same time a very diversified product.

Early silver-plated WMF cake server with a butterfly motif made before 1887.

The above explains why now, more than one hundred years later, such a hobby attracts numerous people: the silver-plated cutlery is wide-spread and due to the huge amount of produced pieces it is easy accessible to any collector, even to those with limited funds. In addition, it brings into today's reality the essence of the Art Nouveau epoch, making the collector's life far from being boring.
As a disadvantage of such a hobby, a lack of information on German silver factories and their production models (Muster in German) should be mentioned. The information on WMF cutlery marks is especially poor. In the monograph [2], only two WMF cutlery marks are mentioned. In the monograph [3], named "Das deutsche silber-Besteck", only one WMF mark is cited, which was developed for hollow ware pieces.
At the same time the number of WMF cutlery marks is well above 50. My collection of WMF cutlery is rather young and counts only about 120 pieces. However, it is a special collection, as my target was not to collect all size cutlery and different models, but to find all possible mark varieties. The dating of the WMF cutlery marks used before 1930 is rather easy as they obey the same rules as WMF hollow ware marks, discussed by me earlier [4]. I was lucky to find eight cutlery pieces (including napkin rings) which have been dated between 1887 and 1924. This allowed me to check/confirm the correlation between the WMF cutlery marks and those of hollow ware.

Silver-plated Art Nouveau WMF fish-set made in 1887-1903.

Unlike the hollow ware WMF marks with WMF letterings, the cutlery ones used in 1880-1903 could be divided in three groups. The group of small marks, used for hollow ware items in the case of space shortage, in the case of cutlery simply doesn't exist, it is always a shortage of space. The marks from the first group, used in c.1880-c.1887, contain the word "WMF" formed of three letters, "W", "M", and "F", with dots in between or without. Sometimes, the letters "M" and "F" are joined (connected together). Known marks are given below in the "List of WMF Cutlery marks". During the next period (c.1887-c.1903), the marks with four-letter inscriptions were applied. The word "WMF" was combined with the following letters: "M" or "N", notating in such a way the base metal used for silvering, that means brass ("M" refers to "Messing", German term for brass) or nickel silver ("N", refers "Neusilber" or another German term "Alpacca"), respectively. It should be underlined that all the inscriptions amongst WMF cutlery marks from the first and second groups were made with a "sans serif" font.

Main marks for WMF silver-plated cutlery used between 1887 and 1903. The earlier marks are given from the top.

Some WMF cutlery marks from the second group are presented above. In most cases they are different varieties of WMFN mark. It is clear that with the passage of time the smaller fonts and/or italics were used. Interestingly, some WMFN marks are dot-less, while others include one, two, three or even four dots. The reason for that peculiarity is still unknown. The third group of WMF cutlery marks (c.1897-c.1903) used some four letter inscriptions (with or without joined letters, made with a "sans serif" font). Later the three-letter inscriptions (without joined letters, made with a "serif" font) were added. Contrary to all previous marks, these inscriptions were put in a rectangle cartouche. Besides, nearly all of them were dotted.

Main marks for WMF silver-plated cutlery used between 1897 and 1903. The earlier marks are given from the top.

It should be noted that according to the items in my collection, a small part of WMF cutlery, marked by WMFN with "N" letter referring to Neusilber (in English "nickel silver") metal base, in reality does not contain this alloy, but uses instead ordinary brass (in German "Messing"). I think that from the beginning this was a kind of gimmick: in order to attract more buyers, the factory announced a long-lasting silver-plated cutlery. Indeed, with the use of Neusilber as a base metal for silvering, after the thin silver layer has been stirred, the general outlook didn't change much, as Neusilber metal looks very similar to silver. However, decorative WMF cutlery pieces, especially, cake servers (in German "Tortenhebers"), were very popular and people bought them not for their long-lasting quality, but for their unbeatable charm and beauty. In the period between c.1890 and c.1903 this circumstance brought the WMF cutlery production to huge unprecedented growth. It should be emphasized that many famous Jugendstil cutlery models (in German "Muster") were created exactly in this period, under the WMFN mark (see below).

Detail of cake server issued between 1887 and 1903.

In 1898-1903, a special WMF mark referring to Neusilber-based silverplated standard cutlery, one-word inscription "GEISLINGEN", made by a "sans serif" font in a cartouche, was used. Below I am presenting two ancient WMF advertisements, which tell us that such cutlery was made from silver-plated Argentan (Alfenide, Alpacca, Neusilber). The lower ad also informs that delivery of such cutlery could not be effected to a private address but only to the jewellery shops or WMF branch offices.

Ancient WMF advertisements issued in 1898 (above) and 1903 (below). Property of David N. Nikogosyan.

However, this and other marks used in this period were soon replaced by so-called "ostrich WMF mark". It is widely accepted, that the use of the ostrich image for WMF mark could be explained by the consonance between the family name of one of WMF founders (Straub) and the German name of the ostrich (Strauss), see my accompanying paper on marks of WMF hollow ware. I found that four different ostrich cutlery marks existed: two marks could be called "ostrich in rhombus", they are distinguished by the rhombus form and its position. The mark "ostrich in vertical rhombus" is the most beautiful one. However, it was a pattern (probe) mark issued around 1903 and therefore it is extremely rare. The second one, "ostrich in horizontal rhombus", is common and was used throughout 1903-1910. The last two could be named as "ostrich in rhombus in arch". They contained the image of ostrich put in rhombus, which is further placed inside a fully- or partly-dashed arch, respectively. These last two marks are identical to corresponding WMF hollow ware marks existed in same time (1909/1910 - 1920), but of course they are of smaller size.

Four WMF cutlery ostrich marks.

From 1920, WMF introduced the new cutlery mark for silver-plated items, containing a special 2D combination of three letters, "W", "M", and "F", placed in a rectangle, which used until 1925. This cutlery mark again fully corresponded to WMF hollow ware mark, used in the same period.

WMF 2D cutlery mark, used in 1920-1925.

Finishing the brief review of main WMF cutlery marks, we will mention the Art Deco marks, which were used between 1925 and 1930. They were very simple, the three-letter inscription "WMF". I found three varieties of this mark, the italics variety was used in the case of shortage of available space for marking, e.g. for marking a serving fork (in German Vorlegegabel). The peculiarity of this cutlery mark is the extremely uniform thickness of the line used in the inscription, which could be easily viewed while looking at the blow-up photos of the mark or using a microscope. Such an oddity doesn't occur in the next main WMF cutlery marks used after 1930 (I don't touch this subject in the current paper).

Art Deco WMF cutlery marks, used in 1925-1930.

The mark investigation I did brought interesting results. Having cutlery pieces of defined model and with defined mark of issue, it became possible to identify the period of time when this cutlery model was used for the first time. For example, I found that according to the pieces from my collection the famous WMF models No.23 (ivy, in German Efeu), No.34 (cube, in German Würfel), No. 37 (wave bands, in German Bänder), No.42 (ear, in German Ähren) and No.44 (name unknown) were already in use before 1903. This finding contradicts the information given in [2], where it is stated that these models were in use since 1903, 1907, 1904, 1914 and 1905, respectively.

Cake server issued between 1887 and 1903.

Ending this introductory text, I wish to mention the so-called "shortened marks" (in German "die kurze Punzen"), used by WMF to mark some pieces of cutlery. Indeed, they represent only the designation of the silvering degree, e.g. "I/O", "O", 90, 60, 18, 8, etc., see the examples below. After hard and prolonged thinking, I realised that these marks refer to so-called "replacement pieces". Imagine, some family, restaurant, or hotel possesses a set of the cutlery. Some time later it happens that some pieces from this set are broken, lost or stolen. They (family, restaurant or hotel) will order such new pieces, but as time passed it is probable that the original mark is not valid anymore, or this model is out of fashion and so on. What will the silver factory will do? It will make the new substitution items, but mark them differently to distinguish them from the genuine ones. Therefore, they will mention only the silvering information. By the way, such firms are still active in USA or UK [5].

So-called WMF "shortened marks".

My current investigation is the first attempt to put in order the numerous WMF cutlery marks. Obviously, with the appearance of new information, an update of this paper will become necessary. Nevertheless, the author hopes that even this first approximation to the important problem will be useful for numerous collectors and admirers of antique WMF silver-plated cutlery.

A classic Art Nouveau WMF silver-plated cake server, made in 1887-1903.

All photographs in text were made by David N. Nikogosyan. The photographed items are from private collection of David N. Nikogosyan, Bonn, Germany.

LITERATURE

[1] Sächsische Metallwarenfabrik August Wellner Söhne, Aue in Sachsen: Alpacca, Versilberte und Unversilberte Bestecke, Hotel- und Tafelgeräte (Aue, 1915), pp.1-274.
[2] Barbara Grotkamp-Schepers and Reinhard W. Sänger. Bestecke des Jugendstils. Bestandskatalog des Deutschen Klingenmuseums Solingen. (Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2000), pp.1-216.
[3] Reinhard W. Sänger. Das deutsche Silber-Besteck 1805-1918: Biedermeier Period, Historicism and Art Nouveau. (Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 1991), pp.1-286.
[4] David N. Nikogosyan. Marks of European Silver Plate: XIV. Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik (WMF) - Marks of Hollow Ware and Trays http://www.ascasonline.org/windowFEBBRA105.html
[5] See, for example, www.replacements.com



List of WMF Cutlery & Napkin Rings Marks

For each mark, first the main inscription/image is given, then the full images together with the secondary markings are presented, after that each secondary marking is illustrated and explained.

PERIOD & MARK
COMMENT
1












































 
1880 - c.1887
WMF mark 1880 - c.1887
WMF mark 1880 - c.1887
WMF mark 1880 - c.1887
WMF mark 1880 - c.1887
WMF mark 1880 - c.1887
WMF mark 1880 - c.1887

The first group of WMF cutlery marks contains the inscription composed of three letters, "W", "M", and "F", sometimes the letters "M" and "F" are joined together. All inscriptions are made with a "sans serif" font. In some cases, the dots inside the inscription and after it are also present. The length of "WMF" inscriptions (if no dots inside) is 2.9 mm. I suppose that some marks from this group are yet unknown.









































 

 
WMF mark 1880 - c.1887
WMF mark 1880 - c.1887

A full WMF mark image for the first group contains also some secondary markings. So far only the silver content designation marks (in grams of silver used for silvering of two dozen standard cutlery pieces) are known.





 

2


























































 
c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.19037
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.19037
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903

The second group of WMF cutlery marks contains the marks with four-letter letterings, with dots or without, which are the combinations of the word "WMF"with the letters "M" or "N". Very rarely the letter "B" is also used for marking (on the napkin rings). The letter "M" stands for brass (Messing in German), the letter " N" stands for nickel silver (Neusilber or Alpacca in German), and letter "B" stands for tin-containing alloy (Britannia Metall in German), respectively. That's how the designation of the base metal, used for ilvering, is made. All the inscriptions are made with a "sans serif" font. Often, due to lack of space, italics were used. Here are some examples of typical mark dimension. The length of four-letter inscription WMFN in italics varies in the range 3.8-4.5 mm for cutlery and 4.6-5.4 mm for napkin rings. The length of four-letter inscription W.M.F.N. in italics varies in the range 3.7-3.9 mm for cutlery items.
There are varieties from this group which are not shown here but exist in the literature, e.g. "WMF.M" with "M" and " F" letters joined together, "WMF.N" with "M" and "F" letters joined together, both with normal letters and in italics. Some marks from this group are rare/very rare.














































 

 
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.19037
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903
WMF mark c.18875 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1887 - c.1903

A full WMF mark image for the second group contains some secondary markings. The fraction "I/O" means the normal thickness of silver or 1 gram of silver deposited onto the 1 dm2 surface of the base metal. The "O" letter put in a rounded cartouche or (later) in a rhombus means an increased thickness (1.5 g per 1 dm2) of deposited silver layer. I suppose that these two grades refer to the silver amounts of 60 g and 90 g per two dozen pieces of standard cutlery. Sometimes, for large items, the amount of deposited silver (in grams) is mentioned by the corresponding digit in the rectangle box. It should be emphasized that some full marks used in this period contain no silvering designation.

The two-letter inscription "ox" ("oxydiert" in German, "oxidized" in English) means artificial darkening of the silver surface to a grey colour. Finally, there is also the so-called "antler mark", taken from the Wurtemberg Coat of Arms. The size of the antler cartouche varies between 1.2 mm x 2.7 mm and 1.4 mm x 3.1 mm.












































 

3


























 
c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1895 - c.1902
WMF mark c.1895 - c.1902
WMF mark c.1895 - c.1902
WMF mark c.1895 - c.1902
WMF mark c.1895 - c.1902

In this period some four-letter inscriptions from the second group (with or without joined letters, made with a "sans serif" font) were used. Later the three-letter inscriptions from the first group (without joined letters, made with a "serif" font) were added.
Contrary to all previous marks, these inscriptions were put in a rectangle cartouche. Generally, in this period the number of main marks became noticeably smaller. The length of fourletter inscriptions varies in the range 4.4-5.2 mm. The length of three-letter inscriptions varies in the range 4.6-4.8 mm.





















 

 
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
   WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903 WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1897 - c.1903

The images for the full WMF marks from the third group are not very diversified. Only a few secondary markings are in use. The fraction "I/O" means the normal thickness of silver deposited onto the surface of the base metal. The "O" letter put in a rhombus means an increased thickness (1.5 g per 1 dm2) of deposited silver layer. These two grades refer to the silver amounts of 60 g and 90 g per two dozen pieces of standard cutlery, respectively. The box "40" designates the silver amount of 40 g per two dozen pieces of standard cutlery, that means a lower quality silvering. Sometimes for large items the amount of deposited silver (in grams) is mentioned by the corresponding digit in the rectangle box (boxes "8" and "4.5". The so-called "antler mark", developed from the Wurtemberg Coat of Arms, is also used in this period. The size of the antler cartouche is 1.3 mm x 2.8 mm.

It should be emphasized that some full marks used in this period do not contain any silvering designation.


































 

4












 
c.1898 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1898 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1898 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1898 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1898 - c.1903

A rather rare mark, referring to Alpacca-based silver-plated standard cutlery, which used for a short time. It consists of the one-word inscription "GEISLINGEN" of 5.6-6.4 mm long together with the digit stating the amount of silver (in grams) used for silvering of two dozens of standard forks (or spoons).










 

 
WMF mark c.1898 - c.1903
WMF mark c.1898 - c.1903

A full mark for this pattern includes also the inscription in cartouche DRP 76975, where DRP refers to Deutsches Reich Patent (German State Patent) and/or (rarely) an antler mark. The size of the antler cartouche is 0.9 mm x 2.8 mm.







 

5



























 
c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910

The famous ostrich mark consists of the image of an ostrich put inside the rhombus. There are two varieties of this mark, they are differed by the rhombus form. The mark "ostrich in vertical rhombus" is the most beautiful one. However, it is a pattern mark which was issued around 1903 and therefore is extremely rare. The second one, "ostrich in horizontal rhombus", is common and was used throughout the period 1903-1910. The size of vertical rhombus is about 2.0 mm x 3.6 mm for the 25 cm long cutlery. The size of horizontal rhombus varies between 1.4 mm x 2.1 mm and 1.9 mm x 3.1 mm, depending on the size of cutlery.





















 

 
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910 WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910
WMF mark c.1903 - c.1910

The basic full mark for this period consists of the rhombus with the ostrich image, the factory name WMF (made with a "serif" font) and silvering designations ("I/O", "O", see the descriptions given above, or digits referring to the amount of silver in grams, deposited on one item or used for the whole set of 24 forks/spoons). Silvering designation is given in a special cartouche or combined in one cartouche with the factory name. The length of WMF inscription varies in the range 3.0-3.8 mm and in the range 2.9-4.0 mm if WMF inscription is made in italics (larger for longer pieces of cutlery). Italics are used in the case of space shortage for marking. Another approach is omitting of WMF inscription. There are also two secondary marking referring to the base metal: "M" (shortening from Messing, which means brass) and ALPACCA (sometimes given shortly as "ALP. ", which refers to nickel silver).

























































 

6
















 
c.1909 - c.1914
WMF mark c.1909 - c.1914

The next ostrich mark was developed for export goods sent to France, it was valid simultaneously for the hollow ware and the cutlery pieces. It bears the image of a running ostrich inserted in the rhombus with a two-line inscription WMF/G, which in turn is placed inside a fully-dashed arch. For pieces in my collection the size of the arch varies between 1.2 mm x 2.0 mm and 2.0 mm x 2.7 mm. Rather rare. The full mark image includes few silvering designations described above.












 

 
WMF mark c.1909 - c.1914
WMF mark c.1909 - c.1914

The full mark image includes few silvering designations described above.
















 

 
WMF mark c.1909 - c.1914

If there is only a main mark presented without any silvering designation, then the object contains no silver. The size of the arch is between 2.7 mm x 4.2 mm and 4.5 mm x 6.3 mm.














 

7
















 
c.1910 - c.1920
WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920

This small-size ostrich mark was used in Germany for both hollow ware and cutlery pieces. It bears the image of a running ostrich put inside the rhombus with a two-line inscription WMF/G, which in turn was placed inside a partly-dashed arch. The size of arch varies between 1.2 mm x 1.9 mm and 1.7 mm x 2.5 mm. The widespread mark.













 

 
WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920
WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920 WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920
WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920
WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920
WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920 WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920 WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920
WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920
WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920
The full mark image contains many secondary markings, some of them are new. The one-letter inscription "M" (shortening from Messing) refers to the use of brass as the base metal. There are also two other markings, referring to the same base metal, namely, nickel silver (in German Neusilber or Alpacca): "N", which usually is used on napkin rings and rarely on cutlery, as well as the one-word inscription "ALPACCA". The length of the inscription "ALPACCA" is 6.8 mm. Sometimes, in the case of lack of space, this designation is given shortly as "ALP. " The length of the word ALP (without a dot) is 3.1 mm. The two-letter inscription "ox" ("oxydiert" in German, "oxidized" in English) means artificial darkening of the silver surface to a grey colour.











































 
 
WMF mark c.1910 - c.1920

If there is only a main mark presented without any silvering designation, then the object contains no silver. The size of the arch is 3.4 mm x 5.1 mm (measured on the piece from my collection). Very rare.














 

8















 
WMF special mark, developed for cheap pieces of cutlery with a low level of silvering

A special mark, developed for cheap pieces of cutlery with a low level of silvering, about 20 g of silver per two dozen of standard cutlery (forks or spoons). The size of the arch is 2.0 mm x 3.3 mm. The size of the box with digit "20" is 0.9 mm x 1.3 mm.













 

9



 
WMF special mark

If there is a combination of main mark (from 1910-1920 period) and the inscription "ALPACCA" without any silvering designation, then it is a special mark for the piece, made from pure nickel silver. The length of the inscription "ALPACCA" varies between 6.7 mm and 7.3 mm. The size of the arch is 1.5 mm x 2.1 mm.
 

10










 
c.1920 - c.1925
WMF mark c.1920 - c.1925

The next WMF mark contains a 2D combination of three letters, "W", "M", and "F", put in a rectangle. The size of the rectangle is between 1.5 mm x 1.6 mm and 2.0 mm x 2.2 mm. Rather rare.









 

 
WMF mark c.1920 - c.1925
WMF mark c.1920 - c.1925
WMF mark c.1920 - c.1925

The full mark image contains silvering designations of two types. Either the whole silvering process is designated (the amount of silver used for silvering of 24 standard forks or spoons) or, additionally to that number, the amount of silver deposited on the surface of one dozen pieces of concrete cutlery is shown.













 

 
WMF mark c.1920 - c.1925

If there is a combination of main mark (from 1920-1925 period) and the inscription "CHROMARGAN" without any silvering designation, then the object is made of pure nickel-chrome steel (patented by WMF under the trade name of "CHROMARGAN"). Extremely rare.

 

11


















 
c.1925 - c.1930
WMF mark c.1925 - c.1930
WMF mark c.1925 - c.1930
WMF mark c.1925 - c.1930

The Art Deco WMF cutlery marks are simple, they consist of three-letter inscription "WMF", put inside the rectangle or, more rarely, inside a rectangular. The length of WMF inscription varies in the range 3.1-4.4 mm. If there is a lack of space for marking, italics are used.

















 

 
WMF mark c.1925 - c.1930
WMF mark c.1925 - c.1930
WMF mark c.1925 - c.1930
WMF mark c.1925 - c.1930

The full marks contain only the silvering designation for the whole process (the amount of silver used for silvering of 24 standard forks or spoons). Note, that if main mark is given in a rectangular (in a rectangle), the silvering designation is also made in a rectangular (in a rectangle). If main mark is given in italics, the silvering designation is also made in the same manner.














 


Dr. David N. Nikogosyan
- 2016 -