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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From the chamber: Ornament honors Randy's RecordsThe Tennessean, October 1st
One of the most exciting moments each year for the staff and board of the Gallatin Area Chamber of Commerce is the arrival of the annual commemorative Christmas ornament. The 2014 ornament has been in the works for a long time. The theme was chosen ...Read more
Downtown Cape Girardeau businesses to sell 2014 ornamentKFVS, September 29th
Old Town Cape announced in June that “Gone Girl Downtown” would be the 2014 Christmas ornament. The ornament depicts a scene from the movie "Gone Girl" that includes the Common Pleas Courthouse and The Bar. Gone Girl was published in 2012 by ...Read more
Goodlettsville High adorns chamber's Christmas ornamentThe Tennessean, September 29th
The ornament may be purchased for $15 at the Goodlettsville Area Chamber of Commerce office or through the Goodlettsville High School Alumni Association, or at the visitors' center at Moss-Wright Park. In addition, the 2013 Christmas ornament...Read more
New Hawaiian Ornaments for Christmas 2014 from Maui by DesignPR Newswire (press release), September 29th
MILILANI, Hawaii, Sept. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Maui by Design (www.mauibydesign.com) has just released seven new Hawaiian Christmas ornament designs in time for the 2014 holiday season, including new designs of Hawaiian sea turtles and marine ...Read more
2014 Cambridge Main Street ornament now availableThe Star Democrat, September 23rd
The 2014 Cambridge Main Street Christmas Ornament depicts an iconic skipjack, and is currently available at selected retailers before it will be available online. Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2014 1:00 pm. 2014 Cambridge Main Street ornament now ...Read more
Mt. Pleasant to offer locally themed Christmas ornamentTribune-Review, September 17th
Elected leaders in Mt. Pleasant have teamed with a local business to create a Christmas ornament featuring a representation of the borough's Doughboy statue. Borough council President Joseph Bauer Jr. and councilwoman Susan Ruszkowski developed ...Read more
Datebook: September 16 - Girl Scout Volunteers, Senior Citizen Needline ...WKMS, September 16th
Paducah students in grades K-12 are invited to enter the 2014 Student Christmas Ornament Contest held by the City of Paducah. Ornaments should be non-breakable, 3-7 inches tall, and a half pound or less in weight. The deadline is November 14. Find a ...Read more
Mayor Kaler Organizes 2014 Student Christmas Ornament ContestSurfKY News, September 15th
2013-Student-Christmas-Orna 2013 Christmas tree with student ornaments.PADUCAH, Ky. (9/15/14) — Following the success of last year's Student Christmas Ornament Contest, Mayor Gayle Kaler is again asking for students to handcraft Christmas ...Read more