Collecting Glass Christmas Ornaments

Decorating the Christmas tree has long been a tradition all over the world for centuries. In the past Christmas trees were only decorated with handmade decorations . Some of the first most popular ornaments were lightweight glass figurals produced in and around Lauscha, Germany by talented glass blowers.

Glass Ornaments History Post War Glass Ornaments Identify Your Glass Ornament Glass Ornaments Storage

Because Christmas is a time for tradition, many collectors like to deck their tree with vintage ornaments. However, antique ornaments those from the 19th century, are scarce and as a result the prices for these are very high.

If you don't want to pay an arm and a leg and still want the tradition of glass ornaments you may want to try collecting glass ornaments from the postwar era.

Glass Ornaments History

Some of the most popular of all ornaments were the lightweight glass figurals produced in and around Lauscha, Germany by the talented glass blowers who populated the area.

The town of Lauscha in eastern Germany is considered to be the birthplace of the Christmas tree ornament in general and the glass ornament in particular. In 1590, a glassblowing center was established in Lauscha, when German Protestant glass blowers from Swabia, in the southwestern part of Germany, settled there to escape religious persecution. The glassblowers created a lucrative industry, making glass toys etc.

In 1847 Hans Greiner began producing glass ornaments (Glasschmuck) in the shape of fruits and nuts. These Glaskugeln were made in a unique hand-blown process combined with molds.

The widespread popularity in the U.S. of these fanciful figurals was the result of the businessman F.W. Woolworth. Their popularity surprised the enterprising American; in the nineteen years between 1890 and 1909, the Woolworth company made $25 million on ornaments that were priced at ten cents and lower.

Sears and Roebuck Catalog, Kresge and Newberry Store chains soon followed suit and the hand blown glass ornament trade flourished.

The popularity of Lauscha mouth blown, molded glass ornaments continues into the present - as much as 80 percent of modern sales of reproduction made with original designs and molds is credited to the United States.

True reproduction ornaments are made in the much the same way as they were over 100 years ago. The glass comes in a clear tube and is blown into Plaster of Paris molds that remain stable during the heating and cooling of the glass blowing process. After the shaped figural is carefully removed from the mold and cooled, liquid silvering is dropped inside the hollow ornament and turned to coat the inside. The next step is to dip the entire ornament into the majoy color; minor details are painted by hand over this solid color. If glitter or Venetian Dew, tiny glass beads, is to be added, it is sprinkled over this wet lacquer.

Despite having an interesting history, these glass figurals have their own fascinating lore. One of the earliest, if not the first molded ornaments was a silvered pine cone. Probably blown into a terra cotta cookie mold, these common decorations are closely linked to legend and symbolism.

The bright red mushrooms with white dots have been consistently popular Christmas ornaments for more than 100 years, beginning in about 1870. They were made in single doubles and clusters and are a perennial symbol of good luck.

Extremely popular ornaments are the fruit selections that glass blowers and their molds have provided collectors. The first type of fruit ornaments made were extremely heavy and are blown without a mold. With the advent of the use of molds in the 1870's grapes were grouped with other popular mold formed fruits and vegetables. Symbolizing the fruits of salvation through Christ.

The glass pickle ornaments are perhaps a strange bit of folk lore the beginnings of which is disputed by historians.

The glass pickle ornament is always the last one to be hung on the tree. The parents carefully hide the pickle in the tree among the other decorations. When the children were allowed to view the Christmas tree decorated, they would begin searching the tree for the Pickle ornament. The children knew that whoever found the pickle first would receive an extra little gift and would begin the unwrapping of the Christmas gifts.

While German glass ornaments enjoyed continuing popularity in the U.S. beginning in the 1920's, Czechoslovakia and Japan gave them a run for their money. The Czechs made high quality ornaments, both original designs and copies of Germany molds, and sold them for less tan the German ones. Japanese decorations, on the other hand, were less refined and heavy, yet even cheaper than their Czech competition. They gained a large foothold in the U.S. with the start of the Depression in 1929, when people turned to this less costly product.

Glass Ornaments Postwar Glass Ornaments

Postwar glass ornaments are inexpensive and turn up everywhere at flea markets, antiques and collectibles malls and shops, secondhand stores, Ebay.

Buy ornaments that appeal to you, that brings you a memory from childhood or that interests you. War ornaments might be a bit plainer than some of the more ornate designs buts they do have an interesting history whereas stenciled ones are interesting for their wide variety of designs.

In the years preceding World War II, Americans bought between 50 and 80 million ornaments a year.

Eckardt, a German immigrant, had been importing German ornaments since 1907. By 1937 , he realized a widespread war in Europe would put an end to ornament exports, so he decided to produce his own. He set up his company in New York City and sold ornaments under the name Shiny Brite, as well as Max Eckardt & Sons. Eckardt was aware of the Corning Glass Co's ribbon glass blowing machine, which Corning used to blow 2,000 light bulbs a minute. He figured that if the company could make lightbulbs it certainly could make simple ornaments. With Corning's help, Eckardt began to produce glass ornaments in 1930, for which Woolworth's placed a large order. The ribbon machine could blow more ornaments in a single minute than a European glassblower could make in a 12 hour workday.

In 1940, Shiny Brite ornaments came as either 2 or 3 inch solid color balls; molded fancies, solid color shapes, including pinecones, lanterns, ovals and teardrops, which were designed by artists of the famous crystal company Steuben. Some popular ornaments from this period also include the carved out, textured glass selection.

Ornaments at this time were only made in five colors,, green, red, blue , gold and silver.

Unlike the earlier European and Japanese glass ornaments, these American ones had no silvering on the inside, because metal was needed for the war effort. After 1941, the metal caps on ornaments were replace with one made of cardboard or paper, and sometimes wood. Metal wasn't used again until the end of the war.

Glass Ornaments Identify

Early ornaments were smaller than modern ornaments. They were usually done in soft colors with hand painted details. The paint may be faded or distressed in areas on vintage ornaments.

Older hand blown ornaments will not be perfect at a close look. Look for a seam along the sides and mark on the bottom. Newer glass ornaments will not have this seam and will be perfect in every respect.

Look for round ornaments in a variety of diminutive sizes, reflector ornaments, unusual shapes or ones that represent food. These were the common themes for older ornaments.

Glass Ornaments Storage

For ornament storage always wrap your ornaments individually in acid free tissue paper and pack your ornaments securely in a sturdy shallow ornament storage box, making sure not to place too many layers of ornaments on top of each other. One layer of ornaments is ideal. .

Do not wrap your glass ornaments in plastic or bubble wrap as this will not allow your glass to breathe.

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