PM&M / Resources / Vocabulary :

Beehive

A mark people nowadays often refer to as 'beehive' is actually not the representation of a beehive but a stylized depiction of the Austrian banded shield. Not really vital, but the minute difference can indeed aid you when evaluating items.

Lore goes that some Austrian royal lost his banner bearer during a fight, meaning that there was no-one showing ('flying') his colors. This however was very important, especially in brutal man-to-man combat, as flying beforementioned colors allowed allies to easily recognize (and group around) their leader. Unwilling to quit battle the Royal in question cut a portion off of the fallen flag and wrapped it around his shield, thus once again clearly carrying his colors. He then rejoined the fight and led his men to victory.

No matter if that is just a nice story or somewhere near the truth, the distinctive feature in that story is a specific shield: flat on top, with a narrowing or rounded bottom half. Straight out of Austrian heraldry that is precisely the shield type that the Royal Porcelain Factory of Vienna later chose as their base mark: flat top, rounded bottom.

And what has all that got to do with a beehive? Well, in order to produce mead the Vikings kept bees for their honey. To do so, they used coiled domes of straw (so-called 'skeps') which are the origin of our modern-day beehive image: flat bottom, rounded top.

In short, 'correct' marks are those with the flat line at the top, 'incorrect' marks are those with the flat line at the bottom (even if they are placed above 'Vienna' or similar). There are cases in which old (even Austrian) decoration studios screwed up this mark but it's fair to say that near everything having a mark with the flat line at the bottom (beehive style) is to be mistrusted. Which does not mean that the other version is 'true Royal Vienna', it is just that 'flat side up' is the correct orientation of this mark.


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