Best Crystal and Handcrafted Nativity Sets Home Holiday Decorations
Christmas decorations range from red and green to bright and shiny to the modern day bright modern with bright pink and peridot green. The variety is almost never ending. The variety for nativity sets is almost as immense. Nativity sets range from modern to wooden to fine porcelain and there are even crystal and accented with 24 karat gold. These sets range in value from a couple of hundred to five figures - yes, upwards of 10,000! See the best of the best. Learn the fine craftsmen from around the world - Itay and more. See the name brand sets of Gorham, Llardo, Lenox and Bernardi. Learn about the exceptional pieces of art, see a map of where these pieces were crafted. And check out the eBay capsules to check on the current prices. Note, many of these top nativity sets are rare and are not always available. The beauty of the nativity sets is their ever enduring tradition.We will explore some of the finest manufacturers of crystal and porcelain. A few pieces are resin. Whatever the material, whatever the country of origin, the craftsmanship is enduring and all are a piece of art that moves our emotions and transcends our human experience to a more ethereal place.
"The Nativity" - Manner of Michelangelo Merisi
Michaelangelo and The Nativity
Michelangelo created some of the most beautiful paintings in the world. His work can be seen in paintings and in architecture. One of his pieces is aptly named "The Nativity" and is an old painting of the nativity scene. If money were no object and of course, it always is part of the equation in life, I would choose this painting for my home. But alas we all cannot own such a masterpiece. The good news is we have many amazing options. The diversity of the artful creations is as wide as the many countries in the world. Yes, the nativity is a Christian tradition and yet the tradition crosses the many continents and the many oceans. While started by the Catholics, Francis of Assisi is created with the celebration of the nativity scene first in 1223, the nativity is crosses both Catholic and Protestant beliefs. The many examples given are not meant to be comprehensive, just a starting point offering different materials and different viewpoints. Remember the joy is in the journey and art work is personal and is only good IF it speaks to you.
Artisans Not Manufacturers
The many different "manufacturers" and brands we will see will be familiar household names. Yet while the items are manufactured and produced, I feel strong that the nativity sets are really created by artisans not by producers. The distinctive style, the branding as the marketing gurus would say is more than a production line. These pieces are crafted artfully to move our emotions and transcend us to a more etheral place in our mind and in our world.
Types of Nativity Sets
Nativities can be displayed in a painting or in a scene. Nativity sets can also be depicted:
- Display Sets of Three Dimensional Figurines Displayed on a Table
- Christmas Ornaments - Displayed Hanging on a Tree
- Christmas Arches - German Innovation - Window Displays
- Pyramid Nativity - German Innovation - With Candles and a Carousel Movement, often a Dinner Table Centerpiece
Etymology of Natvity Scene
A nativity is a place of birth. For Christians around the world, it is often associated strictly with the birth of Jesus. The details of the birth of Jesus and the nativity scene are derived prinicipally from two chapters in the Bible - Matthew and Luke.
A krippe is the German word for crib. A crib is defined by Wikipedia as a wooden feeding trough for cattle, often in sheds or for the wild outdoors.
A manger is a wooden or stone trough for feeding livestock.
Crèche (also spelled creche or cresch) may refer to:
- Day care center, an organization of adults who take care of children in place of their parents
- Nativity scene, a group of figures arranged to represent the birth of Jesus Christ
- Crèche (zoology), care of other's young offspring provided by animals"
The nativity set can take many different forms from a painting to a set that is displayed on a table to a Christmas ornament to hang on the tree or a Christmas Arch that is lighted and displayed in a window. Another classic is the pyramid display, another German innovation that involves a carousel that moves from the heat of candles.
Nativity Sets Crafted from Around the World
Jay Strongwater Nativity Set
Jay Strongwater Nativity Set
Jay Strongwater is well known to shoppers at Macy's and Nieman Marcus for his extraordinary metal artwork crafted in a manner that for many is reminiscent of Faberge. The exquisite gold and silver is beautifully detailed with gems that make ordinary objects such as picture frames transcend into treasures of opulence.
I was first exposed to Strongwater when close friend gave me a frame of his. I was memorized. When researching this piece I was pleasantly surprised he had a nativity set in his art portfolio. Then when I read his background, I was shocked to learn he started out in a suburb of Chicago called Highland Park. I continued to be amazed when I read that he dropped out of college in 1982. I graduated in 1984 so my interest was further peaked. Strongwater pursued his art in New York and now has locations around the world including Dubai and Moscow. His gifts can be found at Nieman Marcus and other high end retailers. His portfolio includes a line of exquisite picture frames that are reminiscent of the work of Faberge.
Mikasa Nativity Set
Mikasa - Lifetime Brands Nativity Set
Mikasa is an American company that is a division of Lifetime Brands, Inc. that started in the sunny state of California in 1948 by George Aratani as an importer. While best known for their dinnerware at big department stores and fine retailers, in the 1970s they expanded their line with the introduction of stemware, crystal and flatware. Many an American household cherishes their many products every day. I am not certain an American holiday dinner could be held without a Mikasa piece of china or flatware or table linen.
Lifetime Brands’ corporate headquarters are now in Garden City, New York; distribution centers are in Robbinsville, New Jersey and Fontana, California.
Nativity Sets by LenoxClick thumbnail to view full-size
Lenox Nativity Set
33 Complete Original First Year Release of The Lenox China Jewels Nativity Display w/ Large Crèche
Lenox was never a "pottery company" and to this day prides itself upon its foundation set in 1889 as an art studio rather than a factory. And yet, Lennox and Makasa dominate the household goods industry here in America. First offered in pieces that were "one-of-a-kind artware in lustrous ivory china". Important point: if you do not see the figurine in the Blue Box Made in USA it is not of the official Lenox China Jewels Nativity!
Lenox markets its products under the Lenox, Dansk and Gorham brands.
One of Lenox's hallmarks of the best navitity sets is the accents in 24 karat gold placed to highlight the lustrous white/ivory china.
Hummel Nativity SetClick thumbnail to view full-size
Hummel's Nativity Set
This one too was a surprise for me. I had long known of Hummel and admire the craftsmanship and yet I would have never guessed that Hummel had a nativity set. The set as displayed above is a little bit different styling than their traditional figurines. The set is brighter and more joyous in the use of its distinctive jewel tones. The wooden stable is a nice addition to the beautiful ensemble. I don't believe I have ever seen Hummel depict an adult's face. While the ensemble includes children, I find the adult faces filled with character and the entire effect extraordinary. To be this set is the finest of all of Hummel's works I have ever seen.
History of Hummel
The history of Hummel is fascinating. Hummel was started by a nun named Bertha Hummel. Her artistic skills were guided by Munich's famed Academy of Applied Arts. While the program was rigorous, her imagination is clearly depicted in each artful piece. After her education, she befriended two Franciscan nuns and in 1931 joined the sisters. She continued with her artwork and was first published on postcards. Her first figurines were launched in 1935 by Goebel Master Sculptures and Painters.
Bertha left us sadly at age 37 and yet her artwork endures. In 2009, Manufaktur Rödental purchased the rights and manufacturing and continues the work in a style that Bertha set the groundwork for - decades later - an enduring tribute to a great female artist and humanitarian. In her artwork, you can see the other worldly joy that she wishes to share with us.
Bernardi Nativity SetClick thumbnail to view full-size
Bernardi nativities are crafted of wood by a artisan named Ulrich Bernardi who was born in Italy. His work is marketed by a company named Antri Store. Bernardi's talent is his genes with his father crafting religious alters out of wood.
As a mastercarver, it comes as no surprise given his artwork portfolio, that is passion is crafting nativities. As a little boy he dreamed of becoming a woodcarver - a job my husband dreams of one day retiring into. During WWII, Bernardi, a deeply religious man, gave hope to soldiers in the battlefield with his Madonnas and crucifixes.
The Bernardi nativity depicted above to me is the most similar in form and felel to the Micheleanglo oil painting that stole my heart at the very beginning of this article. Amazingly, this is not his masterpiece. His best work of art is said to be locked in his vault, sadly hidden from public display.
Uno Alla Volta Nativity Set
Italy - Home to Una Alla Volta
Christmas Arches (Schwibbogen) Nativity Set by Una Alla Volta
Displaying a Christmas Arch on a windowsill is a German tradition that is beautifully crafted by Una Alla Volta.The Christmas arch is lighted and placed in the window, resting upon the windowsill as a lighted example of the Christian faith.
Germany - Home of Uno
Belleek Nativity Set
Belleek was begun in 1849 by John Caldwell Bloomfield who inherited the Castlecaldwell estate in the the village of Belleek in Ireland.
John was concerned about the welfare of his tenants. This was just after the potato famine that struck Ireland so harshly. The story goes he ordered a geological survey of his land. The survey revealed that the raw materials to make Pottery - feldspar, kaolin, flint, clay and shale were literally underfoot! So John started a pottery company to employe his countrymen. Additionally, part of the village had a source of power - so he tamed the water of the River Erne to drive the mill needed for the pottery wheels.
Bloomfield partnered with Robert Williams Armstrong an architect from London with an abiding interest in ceramics, and a wealthy Dublin merchant by the name of David Mc Birney. Bloomfield also lobbied for the railroad which added the important logistics piece to his business plan. Thanks to the business acumen of John Bloomfield, Belleek continues today.
If you have a piece of Belleek and wish to know the time frame of its creation, visit the Belleek website and simply match up the color and the style of the mark.
Belleek remains this day a premier pottery company known for its distinctive white and Irish green.
Ireland - Home of Balleek
Eytomology of the Name Belleek
Belleek is a village in Ireland. The name of the village which is Gaelic, "beal leice", translates to 'Flagstone Ford'.
Waterford Crystal Nativity Set
Originated in Waterford, Ireland. It continues today as a premier crystal company. In 2009, the factory in Ireland was placed in receivership and subsequently closed. Thankfully, Waterford continues to manufacture and craft pieces in Germany and Czech Republic under the company name of WWRD Holding Ltd.
Children's Llardo Set
Valencia Spain - Home of Llardo
Llardo Nativity Figurines
Llardo is known world wide for its beautiful figurines. As a nativity set, it is a composite of the issuance of different piece of sculpture.
Llardo was created from the formation of a partnership in 1953 by Juan, José and Vicente Lladró, crafted in a in a Moorish furnace which they built in their own home in Almàssera (Valencia) and later crossed the river into a neighboring town called Tavernes Blanques (see the map to the right).
Llardo Nativity Set
Willow Tree Nativity Set
Demdaco Corporate Headquarters - Kansas City, Missouri
Willow Tree Demdaco Nativity on Amazon
Crystal Nativity Ornaments
Nativity displays can also be displayed right on the branches of your Christmas tree. These are miniature creations of the nativity scene often re-created in a crystal like presentation. Additionally, there are light globes for your holiday display. Whatever your preference, there is a beautiful piece awaiting your home and becoming a part of your Christmas family tradition.
Hummel was very complete in their website in regards to their masterpieces of art. They even gave the recommendation to have your nativity set appraised. The reason was beyond insurance value but also serving as a method for inheritance between family members. Another option or possible need for the appraisal is for the donation to a school or church. For more information, check out the Hummel website where they even give the name of the professional association of appraisers.
Wedgewood Ornament with Nativity Set
Share Your Favorite Nativity Artisan
Which Natvity Set Captures Your Heart
Share Your Memories About Nativity Sets
Christmas memories are about family and friends and loved ones. Christmas gifts are an incidental part of this holiday, it is the traditions that we remember most - the consistency of the food, family and decorations. It is the decorations that relate the memories of loved ones. I love nativities because it reminds me of my Grandmother - it was a constant - every Christmas she put the nativity up. It was not the Christmas season until the nativity was unboxed and carefully displayed. When I was old enough to own my own home, one of the most momentous occasions was when I purchased and displayed my first nativity set. What memories do you associate with nativities? Please share your personal stories below.
What is your favorite type of nativity?
Crystal Nativity Ornament
Crystal Nativity on Amazon
© 2011 Ken Kline