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What's It Worth?

What is it? A 17 1/2-inch hand-painted ceramic plate by Mettlach of Germany.

October 10, 1998|KATHY BRYANT

What is its history?

In 1809, Jean-Francois Boch started a pottery workshop at Mettlach in Germany's Moselle Valley. In 1836, this workshop merged with one begun by the Villeroy family in Wallerfanger in 1789. Together Villeroy and Boch began a stoneware factory in a restored Benedictine abbey.

They created ceramic pieces, steins in particular, that had innovative methods of decoration. Their stoneware was of high quality and most examples are marked with an incised castle and the name Mettlach. Production was halted by a fire in 1921 and the factory was not rebuilt.

They pioneered underglaze printing on earthenware, using transfers from copper plates, and were among the first companies to use coal-fired kilns.

What's the legend?

This particular plate was given to a Mission Viejo resident by her grandmother. "She said it was one of a set depicting the four seasons. I imagine the one I have is autumn or maybe summer. It was originally given to my grandmother as a wedding gift in the early 1900s."

Judging by the markings on the back, this piece may have been made in 1907.

Why is it popular today?

"This plaque would be popular because of its Art Nouveau look," said Sandra Hanke, manager of Castle Antiques in Costa Mesa. "You can tell by the way she's standing with her neck and back showing that it's an Art Nouveau piece. It's rather humorous to be out in the fields with grain wearing that elaborate hat."

Art Nouveau is the name given to some decorative styles that evolved in Europe and America toward the end of the 19th century and continued until about 1914. These decorative styles are inspired by nature.

What is it worth today?

"This plaque would probably be worth about $1,500," said Hanke. "Wealthier people originally displayed them on the walls of their dining rooms, so it's always been a fairly expensive piece."

Where can I find it?

Antique stores are probably the best bet. Occasionally they come up at auctions. Mettlach steins can be found for sale on the Internet.

How can I find out more?

Antiques price guides by Warman's and Schroeder have small histories and price lists. "The Mettlach Book," by Gary Kirsner (Third Edition, Glentiques, 1994, $35), is available in some book stores and over the Internet at

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