Until the mid-1800’s, Christmas trees were mostly decorated with homemade adornments or edibles like fruits and nuts. But the German entrepreneurs based in the glassblowing center of Lauscha had a better idea. They began producing decorative tree ornaments made out of blown glass. In the 1880s, F.W. Woolworth imported the first of these baubles into the U.S., triggering the American love affair with Christmas tree ornaments.
The first molded-glass Lauscha ornaments resembled fruits and nuts, presumably to replicate the tradition of putting the real things on trees. Glass pickles, of all things, were also produced. These were reportedly hung on trees in order to make a game of seeing which child could find it first—the reward was a year of good luck. Cookie shapes such as hearts and stars followed the food ornaments, while ornaments depicting children, saints, and animals appeared shortly after that.
Around the same time in northern Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), glassblowers were making what are now known as Gablonz ornaments out of silver-lined glass beads. Wire was used to string the beads together in a variety of shapes—from windmills and chandeliers to spiders and stars. Later, between the wars, transportation-themed ornaments appeared resembling boats, zeppelins, airplanes, and bicycles.
Meanwhile, in Dresden, beginning in about 1880, some nine different companies were making embossed cardboard ornaments, which are highly collectible today. Some were printed on just one side (referred to as "flat" by collectors) while others were printed on both ("double"). The most elaborate of the Dresden ornaments were those built of two molded pieces that had been glued together. Colors ranged from silver and bronze (to replicate the look of metal) to naturalistic hues (as you might guess, lobster ornaments were painted red).
Early catalogs by Dresden manufacturers such as Edvard Witte show menageries of common barnyard creatures as well as more exotic beasts—lions, polar bears, birds of prey. Eagles and owls were especially popular, and if you are in possession of an ostrich pulling a cart, then you own a particularly rare Dresden ornament. Flowers, fruits, and vegetables were common, but angels and other ornaments with religious themes were less so, making them more collectible today.
A particularly interesting subset of Dresden ornaments are those made between the 1930s and 1960s, reflecting the Soviet influence on that part of Germany. Some of these so-called Russian Dresdens seem oblivious to the political winds that swirled around them—a clown head, a man walking a dog, Puss ’n’ Boots—but when the ornament consists of a silver star with a hammer and sickle in its center from 1935, or a cute little waving Cosmonaut from 1960, the intended message is obviously more overt.
The handmade German ornament trade foundered after World War I, so American manufacturers filled the void, mass-producing ornaments that were sent to other companies to be decora...
Today, collectors of antique and vintage Christmas tree ornaments tend to focus on themes, periods, materials, or even shapes. For collectors of Shiny Brite in particular, a set of ornaments in its original festively colored box is also desirable.
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Nursing Home FundraiserTrenton Republican Times, September 3rd
A minimum donation of $25 will be accepted for lighting while $5 is the minimum donation for a Christmas ornament. The lighting and ornaments will be used for. You must be a logged in paid subscriber to read the full story. Please Login to access...Read more
Police Calls: Man cleaning gun discharges itMansfield News Journal, September 2nd
500 block of Sloane Avenue — An unknown culprit entered a residence through an unlocked door and stole a firearm, a pocket watch and a Christmas ornament, the resident reported Wednesday. 200 block of West Fourth Street — A woman reported she fell ...Read more
Registration available for English smocking workshopThe Sylva Herald, September 2nd
ECA member Elaine Haskett will teach participants the art of English smocking for a Christmas ornament. Cost for the workshop is $12, which must be paid at the time of registration. Space is limited. Call the Extension Office at 586-4009 to register...Read more
Ask Amy: My mom was hurt by my reaction to her confusing anniversary giftSanta Cruz Sentinel, August 29th
Online I found a crystal Christmas ornament of the same brand and sent her a link with the message, "I kinda love this!" The only keepsakes that are part of our family tradition are Christmas ornaments, and I thought if her gift to us were an ornament...Read more
TEMECULA: Habitat for Humanity Ornament Contest underwayValley News, August 28th
TEMECULA (Aug. 27, 2015) — Artists are summoned to submit their best works of art for Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley's annual Holiday Ornament Contest. All submitted, appropriate artwork will be displayed at the organization's Christmas Tree Lane ...Read more
2015 Christmas Collectible Ornament Now AvailableGeorgetown College News, August 13th
Orders are now being accepted for this year's collectible Georgetown College Christmas ornament, the sale of which benefits campus beautification. Giddings Hall has been chosen for this second in a series depicting campus landmarks which have so much ...Read more
Easter Seals to identify 2015 ornamentWALB-TV, August 10th
Voting ends Monday night at midnight for the 2015 Easter Seals City of Albany Christmas ornament. Eight designs of Albany landmarks were made available to pick from. The top four choices are the Ray Charles Memorial, Tift Park, Merry Acres Manor House ...Read more
Antiques: Walt Disney Christmas ornament makes a rare appearanceOttawa Citizen, August 5th
Q: This old Mickey Mouse Christmas tree ornament has been in my mother's family for years. It's 15 cm tall and made of a very thin material, which I believe is celluloid. The tail is made of a metal spring. It is a bit damaged — the nose is pushed in...Read more