Collecting Vintage Christmas Ornaments

The process of collecting vintage glass ornaments can be challenging, but the result will be a tree decorated with beautiful ornaments, each with its own rich history.

Glass ornaments were first made in the early 1800’s in Lauscha, Gemany. Ornament making was an industry that involved the entire family. In most cases the men did the glass blowing, women did the silvering and the children would help paint and finish them.  It didn’t take long for the business minded to begin manufacturing these wonderful ornaments on a mass scale. The rest, as they say, is history.

In Victorian times, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, who was German, brought the tradition of decorating the tree with glass ornaments to England and it didn’t take long for all of England to follow suit.

In the 1840’s, immigrants from Europe brought their Christmas traditions with them to North America. In typical American fashion the custom caught on in a huge way. Before this time, Christmas was not widely celebrated in North America.

Almost all hand blown ornaments were made in Lauscha, Germany prior to 1925. By 1935, over 250 million ornaments were being imported to the United States. About this time, Japan and Czechoslovakia also began creating ornaments for importing to the States, and in the United States itself, the Corning Company of New York along with Max Eckard established the “Shiny-Brite” ornament company.  

Now that you have learned a little bit of glass ornament history, here are some things to look for when shopping for vintage glass ornaments.

Early ornaments were generally smaller than today’s ornaments. The colors used were softer with hand painted details. In most cases the paint should show some wear. It may be faded or scratched in some areas. The base of the ornament (where the metal piece attaches) should be uneven. Machine made ornaments will have a smooth even break. Look for countries of origins on the stem. New, cheaper ornaments are not marked. However, stems are often switched between ornaments, so look for the other characteristics as well. When starting any collection do your research and ask a lot of questions.

If you are a vintage ornament collector or you are thinking about beginning a collection, The Albany Antique Mall is a wonderful place to start. Open daily, 10:00-6:00, Mon. thru Sat. and 12:00-5:00 on Sunday. Holiday hours beginning Nov. 25th, open until 8pm Thurs. thru Sat.

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