What’s in a Name?

Whimsical, artistic and downright adorable, nutcrackers have been a tradition heralding the onset of the Christmas season for many, many years. But, why a Steinbach Nutcracker? Why not an Asian, mass produced copy? Well, it’s all in the quality. It’s the difference between a disposable piece that falls apart over time and a family heirloom one hands down from one generation to the next. Here, then, follows a little history about Steinbach and the small pieces of art called Nutcrackers that his family owned company produces. 

According to German legend, Steinbach Nutcrackers were often presented as keepsakes to bring good luck to families and to protect their homes from evil. The legend says that nutcrackers present power and strength – and that they serve much like a trusty watch dog to guard their families from evil spirits and danger and serve as traditional messengers of good fortune and goodwill.

For most of two centuries, the Steinbach family has been producing these enchanting wood products. Originally from Austria, the Steinbach family dates back to Edwin V. Steinbach, a famous architect and the builder of the Dome of Strasbourg in the year 1284. Eventually the Steinbach’s settled around the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains), a mountainous mining area which at one time was part of East Germany. Rich in gold, silver, tin, cobalt and aluminum and well as timber, the area was a renowned mining region, but as the mining rush dwindled, the Erzgebirge became better known in the last several hundred years for the intricate wood carving the region produced. 

When the enchanting ballet Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker debuted in St. Petersburg in 1892, the popular Nutcrackers became even more collectible. Quickly becoming very popular in the United States, the ballet ignited a passion for these magical Nutcrackers and this tradition has only grown over the years since the ballet was first performed. 

Today, the Steinbach family operation is headed by Herr Christian Steinbach along with his daughter, Karla Steinbach. These two Steinbach’s oversee product development and quality control in both woodworking factories in Germany, in Hohenhameln at the foot of the Harz Mountains and in Marienberg in the heart of the Ore Mountains. 

The Steinbach Nutcrackers are still crafted by hand. With a seasoned calm and expertise, the hands of old and quite experienced craftsmen guide the workpiece to the high speed milling cutter. Rods are drawn in the roundwood plane. Boards are straightened on special plane and while this is going on, the shaped pieces of wood are carefully glued together under the pressure of a carpenter’s vice in preparation for further processing. There can be as many as 130 steps in the creation of a handmade Steinbach Nutcracker. Attention to detail is a must! 

True folk art is the tradition at Steinbach, and they have found no machine or technique that has rivaled the simple knife. When you see a Steinbach Nutcracker, you see how alive, how real, how precise they are. It is the detail work and the rich trimmings, of course, but it is the woodcarver who really gives the finishing Steinbach touch. 

All Steinbach painting is done by hand. Each color must dry before the next can be applied. A tremendous range of paint shades is used, along with their own Steinbach blending of color. Hand painted in their big, sunny shops, the painters are true artists and the Steinbach Nutcrackers are their pride and joy. 

Many of the Steinbach Nutcrackers are limited editions. The first Limited Edition nutcracker was King Ludwig II, limited to 3000 pieces worldwide. The idea of a limited edition series was wildly popular because it contributed to the collectability of the nutcrackers and greatly increased their value in the secondary market. 

To own a true Steinbach Nutcracker is to own both a piece of art as well as a piece of history. The Steinbach Family cordially invites each and every collector to visit them in Hohenhameln and in Marienberg.

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