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Although first consumed in a variation of the recognizable form in Spain in the mid 1500s, today in chocolate industry has grown to a $50 billion a year business. Chocolate, as a form that we consume today, was, arguably, first brought to light in Germany at the beginning of the 17th century recognized as a medicine and restorative in a melted liquid form. In the mid 1600s, chocolate houses began to open, in London (1657), Germany (1673), and later Italy (1720).
Chocolate’s first transformation took place in Germany with Jan Jantz von Huesden opening his first chocolate shop, where noblemen would gather to drink the liquid chocolate. What resulted was Dresden becoming the center of the chocolate world after being the first city to produce milk chocolate in 1839 aided by Switzerland’s Rudolph Lindt inventing conchiering, which was the process of stirring the chocolate at an even temperature to refine it’s taste.
Recognizing the potential success of this liquid food, Fry & Sons were able to create the first solid form of chocolate a few short years later in 1847. As a solid, chocolate could more easily become available to those outside of the chocolate meccas by transporting the food. Combining the industrial success of manufacturing and distributing, chocolatiers would be able to work with artists in creating a piece of art that would more eagerly please the consumers by adding decorative detail.
It is fitting that the transformation to how Chocolate was sold also came from Germany with Herman Walter in 1866 leading the mould making way followed shortly thereafter, in 1870 by Anton Reiche, who had been familiar with a copperplate mould making method from Létang Fils (who started in 1832). Reiche began to produce metal molds and packaging for toys, boxes, advertising plates and the use of tinplate for chocolate molds.
During this time, every European town had several chocolate shops. Competing for business, these shoppes would cast solid and hollow chocolate using the highly detailed moulds that were created by mouldmakers. Depicting stories, lore, and images of then-modern time, each mould offers a snapshot at that specific time in history, whether be through rabbits, Santas, or other figurines.
While most of the mould makers existed in Germany, they were forced to shut down during World War II and many of the moulds were buried to be saved from having to be melt down to make weapons for the war. The Hanes family of North Carolina have been researching and collecting these vintage moulds for over 30 years as Dad’s Follies. They are one of the foremost authorities on the subject of antique moulds in the world and they sell antique moulds on their web site and at antique shows.
Over the years, chocolate moulds have gone through various changes since their origin. Most moulds today are composite plastic—as a combination of cost and the FDA outlawing the use of metal moulds for food products. The plastic moulds also allowed for easy duplication.