~ JEWELED LIDS ~
A bright green crystal represented the green emerald, to which was attributed the special power of maintaining fidelity and faithfulness in lovers, only to lose its color when the trust had been betrayed and broken. The gem abolished evil spirits into the night, and strengthened friendships as well.
A clear crystal represented the diamond, which was ascribed to have the power to make men courageous and victorious over one's enemies. It was thought to have great virtue when given freely and without coveting. The gem induced justice, innocence, faith and strength.
Crystals of purple, ruby red, and emerald green are the usual colors found in inlaid lids. Certainly there are other colors, in lesser quantities, and some should be considered as rather unusual. For example, a greenish yellow crystal set in the lid of an enameled pressed glass stein proved difficult to research. As it turned out, the crystal was symbolic of a gneiss type of quartz found on an island off the coast of Scotland. During the Dark Ages, talisman (charms) cut from the stone were believed to have the power to protect a person from all dangers of drowning. The belief in the myth continued, and it became a European superstition that endured into the 20th century. In relation to the stein, a rather subtle sense of humor must have surfaced. Was the drinker safe from drowning in a lake, or safe from drowning in his beer? Perhaps the message was a simple "enjoy your beer, there's no water here". Another version might have been "drink beer and avoid all water – it's dangerous." That precaution could apply to the present day as well.
The superstitions explain the variety of colored crystals in inlaid lids on glass, porcelain, and stoneware steins, and also the colored stoneware jewels on the bases of some Villeroy & Boch steins as well.
Also worth mentioning is the old European superstition of clinking glasses together after offering a toast. Originally, striking glass together was believed to be a gesture that drove the devil away from companions while they were drinking. The sharp clear ringing sound of the glasses most resembled the chime of a church bell, which was certain to rid the drinkers of Satan.
Knocking on wood is another superstition that is in use to this day, and it originated with the ancient German tribes of Europe. It was believed that a pagan god who lived in oak trees harmed boasters, and knocking on wood appeased him. The ancients felt it was harmful to predict good fortune, but by immediately rapping on wood the braggart avoided any misfortune.
Pewter acorn thumblifts and/or finials (Figure 6) should always be regarded as good luck charms, especially on wedding steins from the first half of the nineteenth century. The amulets were symbolic of fertility in the bride, and a long life together for the married couple.
These superstitions are just a few of the many that have been associated with drinking, love and honor over the centuries. Hopefully the explanation will provide more knowledge and a better understanding of steins.
Precious Stones: For Curative Wear; and other Remedial Uses, William T. Fernie, MD. Originally published in England in 1907, reprinted in 1973.
Falstaff's Complete Beer Book, Frederick Birmingham, 1970.
Illustrated World Encyclopedia, 1972.