Christmas ornaments are decorations that are used to festoon a Christmas tree.
They are also called baubles, “Christmas bulbs”, “Christmas bubbles” and Christmas “ball balls”.
Christmas ornaments are usually made of blown glass, metal, wood, blown plastics, expanded polystyrene or ceramics.
Ornaments take many different forms, from a simple round ball to highly artistic designs.
Modern Christmas trees originated during the Renaissance in early modern Germany. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther, who is said to have first added lighted candles to an evergreen tree.
The first decorated trees were adorned with apples, candy canes and pastries in the shapes of stars, hearts and flowers.
Glass baubles were first made in Lauscha, Germany, and also garlands of glass beads 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.
Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, is generally credited with importing the Christmas tree custom from his native Germany in 1841. German immigrants, including Hessian soldiers, carried the heritage of the Christmas tree to America.
In the 1880s, American F. W. Woolworth discovered Lauscha’s baubles during a visit to Germany. He made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to the United States.
By the 20th century, Woolworth’s had imported 200,000 ornaments and topped $25 million in sales from Christmas decorations alone.
Germany was the exclusive producer of glass ornaments until 1925. In 1925, Japan was the next country to produce significant quantities of ornaments; the cottage industry also suited Japanese families. Czechoslovakia and Poland, both countries with strong glass-making traditions, entered the marketplace in the late 1920s.
In 1939, the commencement of World War II in Europe shut off supplies of glass ornaments among many other European imports. Corning Glass Works in New York entered the ornament business. Corning was skilled in the production of light bulbs, which used a ribbon machine to flow molten glass through an endless series of molds.
After World War II, the East German government turned most of Lauscha’s glassworks into state-owned entities, and production of baubles in Lauscha ceased. After the Berlin 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 that produce baubles.
In 1973, Hallmark Cards started manufacturing Christmas ornaments. The first collection included 18 ornaments, including six glass ball ornaments. The Hallmark Keepsake Ornament collection is dated and available for just one year. By 1998, 11 million American households collected Hallmark ornaments, and 250,000 people were member of the Keepsake Ornament Collector’s Club.
Mass-produced ornaments tend to be more standard in shape than the ornaments produced by exclusive designers. Balls and ovals are the most common mass-produced designs; but tree-toppers, tree shapes, bells, teardrops, stars, and icicles are among the common shapes that can be molded and finished on a large scale. For the artists who produce collectible designs, their ornament shapes, sizes, and colors are as limitless as their imaginations.
Christmas ornaments collections are often passed on and augmented from generation to generation.
The most expensive Christmas tree decoration that is functional is a diamond-studded star that costs a staggering $950,000. Crafted using gold, silver and 281 diamonds including a flawless rare large diamond in the middle it was created by the UK jeweller 77 Diamonds to showcase their jewellery expertise.
One-of-a-kind Christmas bauble hit headlines in 2009 as the world’s most expensive Christmas bauble. Made of 18 carat white gold and plastered with more than one and a half thousand diamonds, the globe shape is orbited by two rings, featuring 188 rubies. It’s been valued by the National Associations of Jewelers at $130,000 and was created by a tiny, village jewellers in Titchfield, Hampshire (UK).
In 2013 Finnish floral designer Pasi Jokinen-Carter created what’s being called “the most expensive Christmas wreath in the world” — a $4.6 million creation that mixes some fancy holiday shrubbery with 17.49 karat rubies and a 3.03 karat fancy yellow diamonds.
The largest Christmas bauble ornament is 4.68 m (15 ft 4 in) in diameter, and was achieved by The Dubai Mall (Emaar Malls) (UAE) in Dubai, UAE, on 19 December 2018. The large ornament weighed 1,100 kg (2,425 lb).
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has been a national tradition each year since 1933. The Swarovski-crystal star that tops the tree first appeared in 2004 and is nearly 3 meters (10 feet) in diameter.