Prussia Toothpick Holders
In a region of the German Empire known as Prussia, there were many porcelain companies that manufactured some of the finest porcelain ever made. The most famous and the highest quality was produced by two separate families with the same last name - Schlegelmilch. The Erdmann Schlegelmilch family operated factories between 1861-1945. This includes Carl Schlegelmilch’s and Oscar Schlegelmilch’s operations. Reinhold Schlegelmilch factories operated between 1869-1945.
Beginning in the late 1880s up until the 1940s, the style of the toothpick holder they produced evolved with the demands of the times. Starting with simpler embossed molds, they evolved into elaborate designs with pedestals, handles, and detailed transfers (this era is the most sought after), and ended with the more sleek lines of the Art Deco period. One wonderful aspect of Schlegelmilch porcelain is the transfer designs that were used. Though there were thousands, certain ones are particularly sought after by collectors. Portraits and scenes are the most popular and these, instead of the mold, can affect the price. During this era, there were many blanks offered to the American porcelain painting craft. You will find certain molds with hand painting. This type of painting is easily identified, as it is often a sweet floral motif. Though some are very well done, many can be identified as the work of a novice painter. They are to be admired for the time, patience, and love that went into creating them.
There are numerous Prussia related marks or backstamps besides the well known RS Prussia wreath and star. R.S. Germany, R.S. Tillowitz, O.S. Germany and Prove. Saxe, to name a few. Trade names were also used - Royal Tillowitz, Royal Silesia, Royal Vienna, etc., intended to make one think that “Royalty” was linked to the porcelain. According to Capers’ Notes on the Marks of Prussia, the use of the term “Royal” was strictly a sales or promotional gimmick, which could have actually insulted the monarchy, but promoted “snob” appeal to a certain degree for Americans. Some ambiguous markings are the embossed stars, letters, bars, etc. Though unique to the porcelain, it is not known whether they were used to reinforce the bottom of the mold or for decoration. Though we identify them as such, they are not considered a true mark.
The term Prussia has become synonymous with Reinhold Schlegelmilch’s family, which exported their outstanding porcelain to the world. Most R. S. Prussia is ornately fashioned and richly decorated. Toothpicks may not be so much as larger pieces, but there are some excellent examples to be found. Some of the most popular molds have handles. There are names for some molds, such as Carnation, Iris, and Plumes. The molds were numbered and many reference books refer to mold names and numbers. The porcelain was decorated with a combination of transfer designs and hand painting. One of the most important characteristics of RSP is the finish. Finish is defined as a particular surface quality of the porcelain. Some of these finishes are:
Glossy: a shiny finish with a slick look;
Iridescent: glazes - which have different colors that appear to change with varying amount of light;
Luster: a metallic glaze, which has a shiny, iridescent effect;
Matte: a dull finish, not lustrous or shiny;
Pearl: a white shiny finish, not iridescent;
Pearlized: an iridescent, luster type finish;
Satin: a semi-matte glaze, usually white, resembles satin in look and texture.
For more information on Prussia toothpick holders, please see China Toothpick Holders by Judy Knauer and Sandy Raymond. The reference shows over 125 different Prussia molds and identifying marks. http://home.sc.rr.com/heartsdesire/book.htm