Posted 5 years ago
This Pour le Mérite was given to me many years ago. My local jewelry dealer tells me that it is constructed of high-grade silver, but the piece has no markings. After some research, based on its characteristics, and if original, it is apparently a Pour le Mérite produced by Austria’s noted order-manufacturing firm, Roethe, which was located in Vienna. Roethe served as Austrian Kaiser Franz Josef’s House Jeweler (it was Godet, Wagner, etcetera’s Berlin equivalent). Roethe decorations were equal in quality to any produced in Berlin. Austrians were master enamel workers. They produced some of the Imperial Period’s finest enamel decorations. It is difficult to say if this is a wartime or a postwar example, as Roethe produced orders and decorations AFTER the Great War. There are also a dozen types of out-and out reproductions manufactured for the sole purpose of defrauding collectors.
What is certain is that the piece has been in a fire, but in not enough heat to totally consume the enamel. Note the fine detail in the upper eagle's tails, with cut-out areas that I have never seen in a reproduction. One of the lower two eagles show slight damage to the tail, being bent from being dropped or from striking against an object. There is some lack of detail in the medal's lettering and crown when I have compared it to others. This could be a variation? Several collectors have offered different opinions, one calling it a "museum copy", and still wanted to buy it.
I invite comments as to the piece's originality, as I am not an expert in this field. Original or otherwise, it is not for sale.