Thursday, 20 December 2012

"O Christmas Tree" - Ornaments...

From  antiques...

La Pouyette
1880-1900  vintage...

1950's - 1980's   (from my collection)

...and  History:

The first decorated trees were adorned with apples, strings of popcorn,
white candy canes and pastries in the shapes of stars, hearts and flowers.
 Glass baubles were first made in Lauscha, Germany, by Hans Greiner
who produced garlands of glass beads similar to the popcorn strands
and tin figures that could be hung on trees.
The popularity of these decorations grew into the production
of glass figures made by highly skilled artisans with clay molds.

The original ornaments were only in the shape of fruits and nuts,
blown "free" hand, without a mold.

1880 - 1900  (from my collection)

However artisans soon began to use molds to increase their production.
The artisans heated a glass tube over a flame, then inserted the tube into a clay mold, 
blowing the heated glass to expand into the shape of the mold.
The pine cone was one of the first designs.


It was followed gradually by the hundreds of different designs we are familiar with today.
By the 1880s buyers from American stores were coming to the area to purchase glass ornaments.
One of the earliest was F.W. Woolworth.

1930's - 1960's  (from my collection))


 Why did Lauscha develop into a center for this trade?

In the 1590's, Huguenot glass blowers, originally living in the German province of Schwaben,
were forced to flee their homes due to religious persecution. and settled in Thueringen.

The Thuringia region had been home to glassmaking as early as the 12th century.
Lauscha, located in a river valley, had several elements needed for glass-making:
timber (for firing the glass ovens) and sand.
(Nearby Jena would later become famous for its optical glass.)

Lauscha around 1900

Christoph Müller and Hans Greiner set up Lauscha's first glassworks in 1597.
Soon other Glashütten (glassworks) were established in the village.

In 1847 Hans Greiner
(a descendent of the Hans Greiner who had established Lauscha's first glassworks)
began producing glass ornaments (Glasschmuck) in the shape of fruits and nuts.

1880 - 1900  (from my collection)

These ornaments were made in a unique hand-blown process combined with molds.
The inside of the ornament was made to look silvery, at first with mercury or lead,
then later using a special compound of silver nitrate and sugar water,
a silvering technique developed in the 1850s by Justus von Liebig.
After the nitrate solution dried, the ornament was hand-painted and topped with a cap and hook.

Greiner's sons and grandsons,
Ernst (b. 1847), Otto (b. 1877), Willi (b. 1903), and Kurt (b. 1932),
carried on the Christmas ornament tradition.

In the "early days" it was a cottage industry craft.


The ornaments were blown and silvered in a workshop attached to a home.


Generally the glass was blown by men
and the silvering and painting handled by women.


All members of the family, including children, helped paint and finish them.
A typical work day lasted 15-16 hours, six days a week.
A family might produce 300-600 glass balls a week, depending on size and complexity.

Executed with style and imagination, and drawing upon their traditions of hand made craft work, 
glass  ornaments have come a long way from their humble commercial origins.
They deserve their recognition as an important form of German folk art.
Most of the images used for European hand blown glass ornaments are common subjects for Christmas tree ornaments,
and others are simply the whimsy of a creative glass blower.
But some ornaments have religious significance or are a sign of good luck,
and a few are associated with charming stories from the glassmakers' past.

made by my Great-Grandfather
who was a passionate glass blower and designer in Schlesien (Silesia)


Birds are considered a universal symbol of happiness and joy 
and are regarded by many to be a necessity on the Christmas tree. 
Because bird ornaments were difficult to create, 
few glassblowing families in Germany specialized in the making of these special pieces. 
Birds represent messengers of love and are the harbingers of good things to come.
It is said that many German families felt that finding a bird's nest was a sign 
that good luck would come to their family throughout the year.


 Additional symbols of good luck include the red and white capped mushroom stem

 1890-1900  (from my collection)

 Musical instruments,

1880 - 1900   (from my collection)

especially horns, 
are prevalent since they herald the celebration of Christmas music 
and were sounded to welcome Christ into the world.

1880 - 1900

 Reminiscent of nature's own tree decorations, pine cones, walnuts, 
and icicles are commonly depicted in glass ornaments but each have further significance. 

Pine cones were often brightly colored and imitated the cones found on European trees. 
These cones tended to be long and thin.

1950's   (from my collection)

The walnut was known to ancient Romans as "the nut of the Gods" 
and was one of the very first tree ornaments. 
Prior to the Reformation, European children received walnuts from St. Nicholas. 
And, often tiny gifts were concealed inside a gold or silver painted walnut.

1880 - 1900  (from my collection)


1880-1900  (from my collection)

Reflectors (the ornaments with geometric concave indentations) 
are sometimes referred to as "witches eyes." 
In the Victorian era at least one reflector ornament was placed on the Christmas tree 
to fend off evil spirits present in the home during the holiday season.

1900 (single one)  and 1930's   (from my collection)

Bells have always signified the spread of good tidings and good news.
,It is said that they evoke excellent cosmic energy.  
Christmas bells are also associated with a call to prayer.


 1880 - 1930's   (sold)


Soon these unique glass Christmas ornaments were being exported to other parts of Europe.
By the 1870's, Lauscha was exporting its unique glass ornaments to Britain.
Glass ornaments had become popular in 1846 when an illustration
of Queen Victoria's Christmas tree was printed in a London paper.
The royal tree was decorated with glass ornaments from Prince Albert's native land of Germany.

In the 1880s the American dime-store magnate F. W. Woolworth
discovered Lauscha's Glaskugeln during a visit to Germany.
He made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to the U.S.

After World War II, East Germany turned most of Lauscha's glassworks into state-owned concerns.
After the Wall came down, most of the firms were reestablished as private companies.
Today there are still about 20 small glass-blowing firms active in Lauscha.


Collector pieces

...'chacun à son goût'...

 ca 1925-1930,  11,5 cm,  86 Euro

1920-30,  86 Euro 

 Tinselchain, 1890-1900,  175 cm long, 96 Euros

 1880-1890, 18 cm high, 178 Euro

 1900, 48 Euro

 1920, 38 Euros

 1880-1900,  168 Euro

 1910-1915,  15 cm high - 10,5 cm wide,  98 Euro

1890-1900, 11,5 cm high, 168 Euro

 1930-1940,  12 cm high,  68 Euro

 1920,  268 Euro

 1950's,  34 Euro

 1900-1910,  115 Euro

 1910-1920,  4,5 cm high,  34 Euro

 1900, 8 cm high,  28 Euro

c. 1900  circa 338 euro  220 cm

280 cm, around 1900, 218 euro

all available    here



As we know by now - 
from the 16th century Christmas tree decorations have been created from various materials.

The most spectacular and fragile decorations are assembled of glass beads and bugles – 
called Gablonz ornaments (or in German Gablonzer Glasperlen-Cristbaumschmuck). 
They were produced in the region of Jablonec nad Nisou (or in German Gablonz an der Neiße) – capital of the Austrian bead industry during the Austrian Empire in Northern Bohemia (now Czech Republic) starting in the middle 19th century. 
1870 Justus Liebig from the town of Morgenstern near Gablonz invented the craft of lining glass objects from the inside with silver. Many designs and innovations were introduced and the tradition of making elaborate Christmas tree ornaments developed. Silvered, polished or even gold-plated beads were strung up and bent artistically into various shapes with thin wires. 

Glass chains, around 1900, Gablonz   (from my collection)

In the beginning production of glass beads, hand or mouth-blown, as well as multiple strings and small glass tubes was a speciality of the jewelry industry. So, originally the fabrication of beaded Christmas ornaments from the native material was developed as a co-product of a glassmakers who produced certain designs at homes for a larger centralized trading companies.

1880 - 1930's,  Gablonz   (from my collection)

Objects and ornaments were created in late 19th – first half of the 20th century. 
They were assembled with different types of beads: pressed beads, rocailles beads, 
beads with additional interior grooving, glass rods, atlas beads, wooden beads, 
molded blown beads or hollow beads with silver or gold lining 
in countless variations of color, patterns and transparency. 
see     here

Older Gablonz decorations are including small disks or cubes of golden composition material, 
which hold the wires of ornament together. Some objects excitingly combining with beads other different materials: 
tinsel, cotton spun, lametta, chenille, foil, phosphoric wax, wire etc....... 

read all     here

One of our favorite Christmas tree decoration.....

....just keeping it very simple 
in RED and GREEN - the original colors -
not too much of other decoration to avoid covering the beautiful tree,
and always with real candles!


Whether you use old ornaments and glass baubles 
or modern ones,
family pieces or self made ones, fancy or traditional.....


your Christmas decoration,
even if it is only in a vase or in an urn!


....and have a




  1. Dear Karin -
    Oh my gosh! What an impressive collection!! You are making me drool. :) I want to fly over and play with your you decorate. Thanks for educating us, as you always do. I love your great grandfather's ornament. Is that a teapot? I think your collection is one of the best!
    Merry Christmas ~

  2. What a fabulous post! This history is so interesting and I am so pleased to have learned something new today. Your collection is stunning. Thank you for sharing it!
    All best,

  3. I love these ornaments, They are to me Christmas, Things have changed in the Christmas decorating world and not for the better, Merry Christmas, Richard from My Old Historic House

  4. I recognised some of your collection as my parents still have some lovely old Christmas decorations which now sadly sit in a box instead of adorning the Christmas tree. Thank you for sharing your beautiful collection with us and also for the information about the history of Christmas tree decorations. As children we also make special German Christmas biscuits which were hung up on the tree - a tradition which was passed down the family from my German Great-grandparents.

  5. Dear Karin,
    What an informative and fascinating post. How I wish I had some of the delicate ornaments from my childhood. Alas, they are long gone. Your collection is impressive.

    Merry Christmas!

  6. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your collection. Your ornaments are gorgeous!

  7. Karin, you are An Authority! How much you know! And how well you tell the story ---
    Your collection is fantastic, it illustrates so many of these different kinds of ornaments. They are all interesting, and have their own stories. (I've heard that a spider in a web ornament is lucky also.)
    However, the one that makes me long to start decorating immediately is the very second photo, those wonderful vintage balls from the 50's and the next few decades. Their vivid colors and glittering decorations spell out Christmas to me.
    Merry Christmas to you, and all good things for 2013!

  8. Absolutly fabulous, I am jealous!
    Merry christmas to you, and thank you for sharing a such delicate collection.
    Almanach désuet.

  9. I leave a response when I especially enjoy a post on
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    result of the fire displayed in the article I looked
    at. And on this post ""O Christmas Tree" - Ornaments...".
    I was actually excited enough to post a thought :-) I
    do have 2 questions for you if it's allright. Is it just me or do a few of the responses look as if they are coming from brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting on other online sites, I would like to follow everything new you have to post. Could you list every one of all your public pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

    my blog post :: santa decor

  10. Wonderful collection but to have it with dates against the pieces is priceless for me. I have a number of these decorations that I have been collecting for 25 to30 years. I have a rough idea of when they were made, for instance before 1900 or around 1910 to 1930's but this will help me to date a lot of them. I understand that the caps play a large part in dating pieces. 98% of mine probably do not have marks or names on them. Of course they get changed over time too.
    I love the , photo's of the families making and decorating them. I am writing this in December 2017 with my tree covered in old mainly glass items dating from 1880 ish. a wire wrapped balloon and scrap to 1960/70. I started to collect when I had grandchildren, for them. Thank you.Marie