05-1648 XGMcD KNIGHT’S CROSS WITH SWORDS (IN GOLD) OF THE HOHENZOLLERN HOUSE ORDER WITH SWORDS - PRUSSIA
This is a consignment item. It is the Knight’s Cross with Swords of the Hohenzollern House Order (in Gold), the second-highest award for valor awarded by the Kingdom of Prussia (by the Reich after 1871). It often was the prelude to the award of the Orden Pour le Mérite (PLM). [We can map the normal progression to receiving the PLM from awards given in WW I. First was the 1914 Iron Cross 2nd Class, next 1914 1st Class, followed by the KCHHOS, and then the ultimate, the PLM. It was NOT inevitable that one would receive each award, however. I know at least one PLM-winner who never received the KCHHOS].
The Knight’s Cross with Swords of the Hohenzollern House Order (KCHHOS) was instituted in 1851 during the reign of Prussia’s König Friedrich Wilhelm IV. It was a part of a complete new family of decorations that was initially awarded to royalty and nobility. Four different levels of awards exist within the overall award family. They were for the Großkomtur, Komtur, Ritter, and Inhaber levels, and included a Kette (Collar), Grand Crosses, Crosses, Breast Stars, etc. The KCHHOS was awarded for the first time during the 1864 Danish-Prussian War. It was again awarded during the 1866 Austro-Prussian War and the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War. It also was awarded to German colonial forces officers on a very limited basis (the overseas colonies always were special to Kaiser Wilhelm II). At the Ritter (Knight) level it was intended as an award for military bravery. In fact, the KCHHOS was the highest level of award within the Ritter level.
Today we are offering one of its rarest versions: the KCHHOS manufactured in GOLD. After its inception in 1851, the KCHHOS was awarded in gold. This continued until 1916, when gold shortages and the war effort’s high costs required that the KCHHOS and the PLM be awarded in silver-gilt. Our piece was manufactured during WW I, so it was produced between 1914 and 1916. Please keep in mind that in all of WW I, only 8,291 KCHHOS were awarded. [One might assume that WW I’s distribution of the GOLD and silver-gilt awards would be split evenly at a little more than four thousand each, but such is NOT the case. NO KCHHOS were awarded in 1914, fifty-nine were awarded in 1915, and seven hundred forty-eight were given out in all of 1916, for a grand total of eight hundred seven for WW I’s first two years. Since we do not know when the change from GOLD to silver-gilt occurred in 1916, we have to realize that not all seven hundred forty-eight were either ALL-GOLD or ALL-silver-gilt. It depended on the cutoff date, and what amount was awarded before and after that date. It is a reasonably safe assumption that about three hundred awards during 1916 were added to 1915's fifty-nine, which gives us a close approximation of how many GOLD pieces were produced before the changeover to silver-gilt. It also gives us a better understanding of our offering’s rarity].
Our cross measures 2 3/16” from the crown’s top to the six o’clock arm’s bottom. It measures 1 ½” across from the three o’clock arm’s tip to that of the nine o’clock arm. As previously mentioned a (quite large) crown sits atop the decoration. It is articulated rather than fixed, and does move (slightly). The decoration’s arms are mostly white enamel trimmed in black enamel. The decoration’s center on the obverse features black, gold, green, blue, and white enamel, with a Hohenzollern Eagle dead-center. The reverse’s arms are the same as those on the obverse. The latter’s center features gold, white, green, and blue enamel, with the Hohenzollern House-ruler’s royal cypher in its center. The cypher is surrounded by the date “18 January 1851," which was when the Order was created. A pair of crossed GOLD swords extends diagonally through the decoration’s center.
If we look carefully at the six o’clock arm’s edge, we see the hallmark (“W”) for WAGNER & SÖHN, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s royal house jeweler. This firm was known for their fine work producing PLM’s. Even their Iron Crosses were known to be among the best.
The GOLD content is not hallmarked, but typically at this level, the content was equivalent to today’s 18K. [Look at enough gold, and you easily can tell the difference at 14K. When you see a piece that is about 18K, it just JUMPS out at you]. A small slot on the crown’s back allows the ribbon to slide through it. The ribbon is of the same design as an Iron Cross 2nd Class’s ribbon (referred to as the “War Ribbon”). The same ribbon was used on Orders of the Red Eagle and Prussian Crown Orders, both of which were awarded during wartime with swords through their centers just like the KCHHOS. A small piece of this ribbon is included with the decoration.
The item’s condition is nearly flawless. No cracks or chips mar the enamel. It looks little different from it did nearly one-hundred-years ago when it came from Wagner & Söhne’s Berlin workshops in 1915/1916. This is an amazing opportunity for an advanced collector of orders and decorations to acquire a superb example of a very rare decoration.