This is a consignment item that. It is a Jeweler’s (Wearer’s) copy of the Orden Pour le Mérite with the very rare Oak Leaves. The example dates from the 1914-1929 period. In designating it a “Jeweler’s or Wearer’s Copy,” we say it is from the period, but was not an awarded piece. [We are always careful NOT to claim a decoration was awarded unless it comes with some form of provenance such as an award document or paperwork from the family]. It probably was purchased after the initial award by one of the recipients. Such was often the practice with PLM’s, since at this level it is almost certain that Kaiser Wilhelm II had presented the award. Since it was Germany’s highest honor to bestow, and it usually was presented by the Kaiser himself, many men put the presentation piece away for safekeeping and bought another PLM for daily wear. As a matter of fact, the Order’s rules required that a PLM awardee (with or without Oak Leaves) wear the award in public. Even if he was wearing a suit and not in uniform, he was required to wear a PLM boutonniere.
During WW I, a total of 687 PLM’s were awarded to various officers in the German military and to important men from the Central Powers. The PLM with Oak Leaves was awarded 121 times. Oak Leaves indicated a second award or higher award of the PLM (as they did for other German decorations).
One difference between the award’s two levels was the officers’ ranks. The first award of a PLM was made to both senior and junior officers. If given to a junior officer, it was for supreme bravery or accomplishments in battle. For example, the Imperial German Air Service offered its first PLM for shooting down eight airplanes. Within a year of the first award, they increased the score to sixteen (the level at which Manfred von Richthofen received his PLM). As the war progressed, the tally was increased to twenty, then thirty kills late in the war. The Kaiserliche Marine received their share of PLM awards. Several U-Boot commanders and commanders of surface vessels were awarded PLM’s.
When it came to the award of the Pour le Mérite with Oak Leaves, junior officers were excluded. Recipients of the award were often general officers (or admirals) and/or members of royalty, from both Germany and the Central Powers. Among the men awarded the PLM with Oak Leaves were Generalfeldmarschalls Paul von Hindenburg and August von Mackensen, as well as Prinz Heinrich, Kronprinz Wilhelm and his brother, Prinz Eitel Friedrich.
The decoration we are offering today is from the pre 1917, “pie slice,” suspension-device variation. The enamel is a lighter blue than others, and the gold lettering is chased. The enamel is quite pleasing, overall. We see a scratch or two on the obverse, along with one very small chip at one of the arms’ points. One must look very closely to see it. Two small chips also appear near the reverse’s center. If anything, these small flaws give us a comfort level and attest that the decoration was actually worn.
The Oak Leaves are attached to a device that looks like a paper clip. The .938 silver and “JG” for J. Godet hallmarks appear on the PLM’s top edge. Another critical point is the ribbon, which measures 32 1/2″ x 2 1/4.” It is a full ribbon with ties on either end, which is a real plus. The VERY important final detail: the ribbon displays THREE silver bands instead of the two we see on a regular PLM’s ribbon. Three bands were only used on PLM’s WITH Oak Leaves.
The decoration comes in a very handsome presentation case, which measures 5″ x 7.” It is covered with red leatherette and sports a fine gold trim band around the exterior of the case’s top half. It does NOT appear on its bottom half. The case’s upper interior is covered with rich, red, gathered silk. The bottom is covered with red velvet and is fitted for the cross. It also has a fitted compartment for the full-length ribbon.
This is an extraordinary offering for the very advanced collector.