Gallery » Collect This Now: Antique Christmas Ornaments
Decorating Christmas trees was primarily a German tradition. By the mid-19th century, miniature paper and glass replicas of angels, animals, toys, fruit and musical instruments were being hung on trees in addition to candles.
Made primarily out of the home, since the manufacturing of ornaments began as a cottage industry of Germany, the appeal of these delightful ornaments spread rapidly. From central Europe, they swept to England--partially due to the influence of German-born Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband--and then finally to North America. (Written by Donna Pulese-Murphy; photo by Jaimee Itagaki)
Generally speaking, early ornaments were usually done in soft colors with some hand-painting, and the patina, or gentle signs of aging, should be evident. They were also hand-blown versus machine-made. (Written by Donna Pulese-Murphy; photo by Jaimee Itagaki)
The doll manufacturing industry gave birth to the cotton ornament industry in Sonnenberg, Germany, which included dolls, figures, vegetables, fruits, zeppelins and balloons. They were made from spun or batted cotton, or they took the form of a cotton doll with a bisque head/face. Another important category includes Santas and Belsnickles made out of composite or paper mache. (Written by Barbara Brunner and Gary Heidinger; photo by Jaimee Itagaki)
Although many varieties of early antique ornaments are available, some stand apart for their collectability value: specifically, fanciful glass ornaments made in Lauscha, Germany; cotton, bisque and paper mache ornaments made in Sonneberg, Germany; paper ornaments made in Dresden, Germany; composite paper ornaments made in Sebnitz, Germany; and wire and tinsel ornaments made in Nuremburg, Germany. (Written by Donna Pulese-Murphy; photo by Jaimee Itagaki)
There's an interesting anecdote that F. W. Woolworth was the first retailer in North America to sell glass ornaments, and by 1890 he realized a whopping $25 million by selling them in his five-and-dime stores. (Written by Donna Pulese-Murphy; photo by Jaimee Itagaki)
Collectors need to be cautious when shopping for antique ornaments, especially at flea markets or on eBay, as many reproductions abound. We recommend that you do business with a respected dealer and educate yourself. (Written by Donna Pulese-Murphy; photo by Jaimee Itagaki)