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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Museum debuts 2013 Christmas ornamentCullman Times Online, December 8th
This year's annual, collectable, commemorative Christmas ornament is available for purchase at the Cullman County Museum. The ornaments feature a different historical building each year. This year's ornament bears a likeness of the Festhalle. According...Read more
Newnan releases 2013 Christmas ornamentNewnan Times-Herald, December 6th
“The Newnan Hospital redevelopment project is one of the most fascinating examples of adaptive reuse that our city has ever undergone, and this year's Christmas ornament celebrates our accomplishment,” says Courtney Collins, Main Street manager...Read more
'Student Christmas Ornament' contest winners announcedWPSD Local 6, December 3rd
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There's A George W. Bush Painting Christmas OrnamentAustinist, December 3rd
The Artist Formerly Known as President George W. Bush is getting into the merchandising game (way to build your brand, George!) with a $30 Christmas Ornament that contains a reproduction of Dubya's painting of a cardinal. "Well, I've, uh, become a...Read more
Artwork by former President George W. Bush can grace anyone's Christmas treeFort Worth Star Telegram, December 2nd
Former first lady Laura Bush said Monday that she enjoyed her husband's piece of art so much she decided to choose that image for the family Christmas card — and the 2013 Bush Center Christmas ornament. “We thought it would be nice to use one of ...Read more
The GEEK-centric Christmas Ornament GuideGeek Magazine, November 29th
"Oh My Stars and garters!", guess who just helped you on the ornament picking this year? So its officially time to face the music – the monolithic beast known as the holiday season is upon us. For some, this is the time to get happy, to share love into...Read more
Former president-turned artist George W. Bush debuts artwork on Christmas ...UPI.com (blog), November 27th
Former president-turned artist George W. Bush debuts artwork on Christmas ornament. George W. Bush's artistic skill is on display and for sale as Bush Center promotes commemorative ornament featuring Bush's painting of a cardinal. Posted By JC Finley ...Read more
George W. Bush Sells Cardinal Painting Christmas OrnamentABC News, November 23rd
The former president, who has previously dabbled in the domain of bathroom, animal and celebrity portraiture, is now selling his artwork on a limited edition Christmas ornament, which is "flying off the shelves" at the Bush Center's Museum Store...Read more