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Best Crystal and Handcrafted Nativity Sets Home Holiday Decorations

Updated on November 21, 2015

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

Source
Lot Description Manner of Michelangelo Merisi, called Caravaggio The Nativity oil on canvas, feigned arched top, in an elaborately carved Florentine frame 28 1/8 x 17¾ in. (71.4 x 45 cm.)
Lot Description Manner of Michelangelo Merisi, called Caravaggio The Nativity oil on canvas, feigned arched top, in an elaborately carved Florentine frame 28 1/8 x 17¾ in. (71.4 x 45 cm.) | Source

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.

"A crèche

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

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A markerItay - Home of Bernardi -
Rome, Italy
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B markerGermany - Home of Hummel - Mfg Site for Waterford -
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C markerIreland - Home of Balleek and Waterford -
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D markerUSA -
United States
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E markerValencia, Spain - Home of Llardo -
Valencia, Spain
get directions

F markerNew York - Location now for Lifetime Brands - Mikasa -
New York, NY, USA
get directions

G markerCalifornia - Original Home of Mikasa -
California, USA
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H markerHighland Park, Illinois - Birthplace Jay Strongwater -
Highland Park, IL, USA
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Jay Strongwater Nativity Set

nativity set
nativity set | Source

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

Capturing the spirit of the holiday season, this serene fine-porcelain nativity scene set from Mikasa is sure to become a treasured family heirloom to be brought out and displayed year after year. This 9-piece set includes Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, t
Capturing the spirit of the holiday season, this serene fine-porcelain nativity scene set from Mikasa is sure to become a treasured family heirloom to be brought out and displayed year after year. This 9-piece set includes Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, t | Source

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 Lenox

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beautiful white nativity set by Lennox complete with wooden mangerbeautiful white nativity set by Lennox with intricate goldbeautiful white nativity set by Lenox with intricate gold and green leaf edging - exquisitenativity set by Lenox with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in white porcelain with goldnativity set by Lenox with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and several others in white porcelain with gold
beautiful white nativity set by Lennox complete with wooden manger
beautiful white nativity set by Lennox complete with wooden manger
beautiful white nativity set by Lennox with intricate gold
beautiful white nativity set by Lennox with intricate gold | Source
beautiful white nativity set by Lenox with intricate gold and green leaf edging - exquisite
beautiful white nativity set by Lenox with intricate gold and green leaf edging - exquisite | Source
nativity set by Lenox with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in white porcelain with gold
nativity set by Lenox with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in white porcelain with gold | Source
nativity set by Lenox with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and several others in white porcelain with gold
nativity set by Lenox with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and several others in white porcelain with gold | Source
Rug Seller by Lennox - part of the nativity set
Rug Seller by Lennox - part of the nativity set | Source

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 Set

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Hummel Nativity Setbeautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels complete with wooden manger and porcelain star and angle above the mangerbeautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastelsbeautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastelsbeautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels
Hummel Nativity Set
Hummel Nativity Set | Source
beautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels complete with wooden manger and porcelain star and angle above the manger
beautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels complete with wooden manger and porcelain star and angle above the manger
beautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels
beautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels | Source
beautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels
beautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels | Source
beautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels
beautiful Hummel Nativity Set in soft pastels | Source

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 Set

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Bernardi Nativity SetBernardi Nativity SetBernardi Nativity SetBernardi Nativity Set - close up of Joseph, Mary and baby JesusBernardi Nativity Set
Bernardi Nativity Set
Bernardi Nativity Set | Source
Bernardi Nativity Set
Bernardi Nativity Set | Source
Bernardi Nativity Set
Bernardi Nativity Set | Source
Bernardi Nativity Set - close up of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus
Bernardi Nativity Set - close up of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus | Source
Bernardi Nativity Set
Bernardi Nativity Set | Source

Bernardi Nativity

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

uno alla volta nativity set in pure white
uno alla volta nativity set in pure white | Source

Italy - Home to Una Alla Volta

A markerItaly -
Italy
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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

A markerGermany -
Germany
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Belleek Nativity Set

Belleek Nativity Set
Belleek Nativity Set
Belleek Nativity Set
Belleek Nativity Set | Source

Belleek History

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

A markerIreland -
Ireland
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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

Waterford Nativity

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

Source
11pc Lladro Children's Nativity Set, Includes Cow, 11pc Lladro Children's Nativity Set, Includes Cow, Donkey, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, The Three Kings, Shepherd Boy, & Two Girls. Auction Estimate:$800- 1500.

Valencia Spain - Home of Llardo

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A markerAlamassera, Valencia -
46132 Almàssera, Spain
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B markerTavernes Blanques, Valencia -
46016 Tavernes Blanques, Spain
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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

Llardo Nativity Set
Llardo Nativity Set | Source
A markerValencia, Spain -
Valencia, Spain
get directions

Lladró (Valencian pronunciation: [ʎaˈðɾo]) is a Valencian Spanish company based in Tavernes Blanques, Valencia, that produces high quality porcelain figurines.

Willow Tree Nativity Set

Willow Tree Nativity
Willow Tree Nativity | Source

Demdaco Corporate Headquarters - Kansas City, Missouri

Willow Tree Demdaco Nativity on Amazon

Crystal Nativity Ornaments

crystal Nativity ornament with gold accents
crystal Nativity ornament with gold accents | Source

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

Wedgewood Ornament with Nativity Set
Wedgewood Ornament with Nativity Set | Source

Share Your Favorite Nativity Artisan

Which Natvity Set Captures Your Heart

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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?

See results

Crystal Nativity Ornament

Crystal Nativity on Amazon

© 2011 Ken Kline

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    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Oh, this one was simply fun and frolic - a complete indulgence upon my part. In this way, I have photos and a little collection of all of the best nativities - very selfish of me.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Lovely stuff, especially the Bernardi. Wish I'd seen this hub last Christmas. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      KoffeeDlatch Gals,

      Thank you so much! I find it fascinating - as diverse as the nativity sets are - they all have favorite followers. Yes, the Lennox one is very beautiful. I really must upload some photos. My nativity set is a non-brand but fun.

      Love your enthusiasm - up, interesting, beautiful and awesome - wow! Thank you!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      What a beautiful, interesting and informative hub. I love nativity scenes. I especially love the Lennox one you featured. It is so elegant. Actually all of them are beautiful. Up, interesting, beautiful and awesome.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      James A Watkins,

      Merry Christmas to my friend in Florida! Wishing you all of Christmas blessings to you and your family. Thank you so much for stopping by.

      alekhouse,

      I am a huge lover of animals in any form. My most precious ornaments are my Golden Retriever, seahorse and hummingbird.

      Most of my decorations are fantasy and child-like - the Christmas bears, the rocking horse. I have recently stumbled upon porcelain dolls with iceskates. While the majority of my items are just fun and frolic, I do cherish the nativity and give it center stage. I don't have a name brand nativity but it to me one of the prettiest I have ever seen. I will try to upload a photo. It is a little classical in form - much more so than the elegant modern Llardo figurine which I adore - my nativity is classic form with bold bright colors which may mean it mimics my fun and frolic theme. I wonder if our Christmas decorations follow our personality traits. Hmmmm...perhaps another hub.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 5 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Wonderful hub, Gma. I love the Lladro figurines. I collect crystal ornaments but they are not religious. They are birds, animals, butterflies...that sort of thing. They are so beautiful.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      They are all so beautiful that it is hard to pick a favorite. Thank you for the pleasure of viewing this gallery of nativity sets. Your Hub is outstanding! Merry Christmas! :D

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      mary615,

      It was allot of hard work but a labor of love. I do adore Christmas decorations and I wanted to learn about the different crystals, pottery, artisan companies. Maybe it is a sign of my age. I think we go through chapters in our lives and this chapter of mine is about Christmas decorations and nativity sets.

      My husband collects cars - my fascination is Christmas. I simply adore the magic at Christmas time and nothing to me is more beautiful than a Christmas nativity set.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      You really put a lot of hard work and time into this excellent Hub. I voted it UP, etc.etc.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      laurathegentleman,

      Oh, the Hummel nativity set is remarkable! Yes, nativities are my favorite too - I have a special passion for them and remember exactly when I first had a nativity set up in my home. I will have to load a photo of my set which is a store bought item not a name brand but very special in my heart. Thank you so much for the high marks! I don't believe I have ever had extraordinary! You made my week!

    • laurathegentleman profile image

      laurathegentleman 5 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      This hub was extraordinary! My grandmother owns an exquisite Hummel nativity set, and it is one of my favorite Christmas decorations every year! Wonderful hub!