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Restore or Reuse Vintage Glass Christmas Ornaments
Give Vintage Ornaments New Life
I love those old ornaments, the ones Grandma used to have on her tree, especially the Shiny Brite brand. When I was helping my grandmother move to a senior apartment building, I confiscated the ornaments she had left. Otherwise they would have ended up in the trash. I adore those bright, shiny colors, the glossy indents with their intricate patterns, the flocked and glittered balls with scenes or stripes and the lovely banded bells. I am loath to give them up even though they were darkened and spotted with age, the flocking and mica glitter worn away. So I decided to restore them instead.
If you are like me you want to keep your lovely vintage ornaments as long as possible. Restoring them is a fairly simple task. You don't have to be an artist to refurbish them. When finished, they will glimmer like new.
Or check out my ideas to reuse them so they will shine in your holiday décor for a long time to come.
Type of Ornament
Mercury Glass Ornaments can only be restored from the inside using Silver Nitrate. This is an expensive project. I don't recommend restoring these ornaments, but leave them as is with all their flaws.
Shiny Brite brand ornaments had their colors lacqured on the outside and can be touched up.
What is it Worth?
Before you restore any ornament take it to a dealer for an appraisal. If its worth quite a bit, you probably don't want to restore it as it is worth more with its used look.
Make it Shine!
Some ornaments just need a good cleaning. Use a soft, lint free cloth. Do not use microfiber cloths or paper towels as these can scratch the paint off. Gently rub paste wax, like Turtle Wax, onto the ornament and buff it until it shines. If the ornament has glitter or flocking on it, don't use the paste wax as this will discolor the glitter or flocking. Instead dilute water with a mild dish washing liquid.
Touch up lacqured ornaments with gilding paint or acrylic metallic paints. These can be found at any craft store like Michael's or AC Moore.
If glitter is coming off you can refresh it. Use a common white glue to attach mica flakes or Diamond Dust glass glitter to the ornaments. Don't put a lot of glue on or the glitter will slide off. Use an old crafting paint brush to brush a light coat of glue onto the existing glitter design, then gently roll the ornament in the glitter. It should dry within 2 hours or less. Diamond Dust glass glitter can also be found at craft stores. Mica flakes can be found on the internet.
These websites have the glitter and paints you need to restore your vintage glass ornaments.
Restoring the Flocking
Ornaments that have flocked scenes, figures and lettering can be restored, however, it does take longer than painting and glittering and one mistake can ruin the ornament.
I recommend leaving the flocking as is.
If you are ambitious enough to attempt it, follow these steps to reflock your ornament.
1. Make a Mask out of tracing paper. This paper is flexible enough to shape to the ornament.
A. Lay the paper on the ornament, lightly trace the design with a soft-tipped marker while holding the paper in place.
B. Remove the tracing paper from the ornmanet and carefully cut out the traced design.
2. Set the mask over the design, carefully matching the edges. Tape the paper to itself or hold it.
3. Spray the flocking over the design in short, even movements.
4. Allow the flocking to dry for 3 to 5 minutes before removing the paper.
Once the flocking is completely dry, it will look new and fresh. Flocking spray can be found in craft stores.
Shiny Brite Reproductions on Amazon
I love these. Many of the designs are exactly like my grandmother's ornaments.
Another set I love. The Three Kings riding the camels are rare.
Vintage Ornament Wreath
Makes a Great Gift
1 styrofoam wreath
18 inch gauge wire
quick dry craft glue
bead garland or wired Christmas ribbon
1. Cut about 6 inches of wire. Fold in half and twist cut ends together, forming a loop at the fold portion.
2. Put a few drops of glue on the twisted end and push into the back of the styrofoam wreath. This will be the hanger.
3. Place larger ornaments on the stryofoam wreath first. Place a few drops of quick dry glue on an ormanent and place on stryofoam wreath. DO NOT PRESS DOWN. When the wreath is full, begin filling in gaps with small ornaments. Continue gluing ornaments all around the wreath until it looks full. You can glue ornaments on top of each other.
Another option for the base ornaments is to twist wire through the ornament hangers and push the wires into the stryofoam. Put glue on the ends of the wire before pushing into the stryofoam to secure the wires.
4. Take bead garland or wired Christmas ribbon and wind carefully around the wreath. Add drops of glue here and there to keep the garland or ribbon in place.
5. Hang it up!
Fill glass jars and vases with vintage ornaments of all sizes, shapes and colors. Place them on window sills for natural light to reflect off the ornaments.
Layer mini LED lights and the ornaments in the jars. LED lights don't overheat. Place in corners to lighten them up. Use tinted jars for extra color.
For more sparkle put tinsel or shiny curly ribbon in the bottom of the vase or jar and drop clumps of tinsel in between the ornaments.
Place silk pointsettias and evergreen branches into the vases. Hide the stems between the ornaments.
Fill candy dishes, crystal bowls, and other dishes with small ornaments and place on end tables.
Christmas Ornament Crafts
Find other ways to reuse your vintage ornaments.
- Recycling Old Ornaments
Here's an idea to recycle an ornament that is beyond restoration and is worth nothing on the collectors market.
Make a Centerpiece
Make a sparkling centerpiece with vintage ornaments. Lay a red or green runner on your table. Place a fancy serving dish or tray in the middle and fill it with ornaments. Accent the ornaments with real or artificial evergreen branches, holly or ivy. Set red and green taper candles in silver or gold candle holders on each side.
Lay evergreen branches in the center of a table. Place tall and short candle holders around and in between the branches. Place pillar candles in various holiday colors on some short and some tall holders. Place silver or gold vintage ball ornaments on the other holders. Alternate the candles and ornaments for a nice design. Scatter more ornaments throughout the branches. Drape ribbon or bead garland around the table and branches.
Use a vintage purse or cosmetic bag and fill it with thin garlands of tinsel, vintage ornaments and vintage paper ornaments. Leave the lid open and drape with more tinsel garland. Add vintage looking stickers or Christmas cards to keep the theme going.