Glass and crystal items are traditional Christmas decorations and gifts. Glassmakers like Sandwich, Waterford, Fenton, and others have long produced glass Christmas pieces including ornaments, tableware, wall decorations, lanterns, window-hanging ornaments, glass-beaded garlands, and limited-edition glassware.
But historically, glass had a more practical purpose during Christmas, as counterweights or shades for candles, which were used to light up Christmas trees before the widespread distribution of electricity. Glass Christmas counterweights generally resembled the ornaments of the day (fruits and flowers were common motifs), except they had clips on their tops that were meant to be secured to branches, as well as holders for candles. Glass shades, which were often blown into the same molds as ornaments, were even more functional, outfitted with clips at their bases since the shade was designed to contain the flickering flames.
A parallel tradition of Christmas crystal gives collectors of Waterford, Swarovski, Baccarat, Orrefors, Steuben, and even Lalique something a bit more upscale to hang on their trees or set on their tables. Subjects for crystal ornaments generally run along the same lines as glass ones, with sparkling Santas, angels, bells, and doves being among the most popular motifs. Waterford has made crystal ornaments in the shapes of wreaths and fleurs-de-lis. Orrefors ornaments tend to be abstractions of Christmas trees and snowmen, while those from Baccarat include shooting stars and snowflakes.
Beyond ornaments, crystal makers have also produced objects that are more traditionally decorative, intended for household display during the season. Swarovski’s cut crystal pieces are like little statuettes of Santa, his reindeer, and their sleigh. Steuben’s Christmas crystal was even more sculptural, especially the trees represented by bubble-riddled, dunce-cap-like cones. On the other hand, many pieces of holiday crystal are functional, such as the 12 Days of Christmas stemware and plates produced by Waterford.