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German Glass Christmas Ornaments

Updated on February 17, 2015

Vintage German Christmas Ornament Collectibles

Vintage glass Christmas tree ornaments are some of the most highly sought after collectibles of the Yuletide season. Ornaments from the late 1800's to the early 1950s that were made in Germany are typically the ones that are the most coveted. Antique, hand blown glass tree bulbs enjoy incredible popularity among collectors and command high prices on the resale market, even in only fair condition.

What fascinates people so much about these tree - and home - decorations from Christmases long ago? Why do they go to the ends of the earth to complete a set or bid unbelievable prices on online auction sites to have these decorations? Is it the colors? Is it the craftsmanship? Perhaps it's the scarcity because they're so fragile?

Walk with me through holiday seasons past and lets see if we can see what they see!

Photo Credit: MJsConsignments

German Hand Blown Glass Deer Ornament Circa 1920
German Hand Blown Glass Deer Ornament Circa 1920

The Dawn of the Glass Ornament Industry

Paper Christmas ornaments were made in Dresden, Germany and elsewhere for many years prior to the dawn of the production of glass ornaments. They were quite popular. Perhaps it was seeing this that brought many of the finest German glass blowers out of the commercial and industrial glass industries in the late 1800s and the very early 20th century to begin creating glass ornaments.

During the late 1800's through the 1920s, craftsmen blew intricate designs by mouth. No two ornaments were ever exactly the same. Many ornaments were purchased in Germany and carried to homes around the world by devotees of art glass. At the turn of the 20th century and after industrialization, Germany began exporting both mouth blown and machine blown "mass produced" glass around the world and, especially, to eager customers in the U.S.

Photo Credit: MJsConsignments

From Mouth Blown to "Mass Production"

German Kugel Ball Ornament
German Kugel Ball Ornament

Kugel balls were the first widely produced German made Christmas ornaments. While not quite "mass produced", these bulbs were often made by pouring molten glass into molds and pressing in the design and then, once cooled, silvering the inside and hand painting the finished product. Though somewhat more production oriented, each ornament was at least slightly unique since they were hand painted.

Over time, Kugel style ornaments evolved from simple balls to much more intricate shapes - include human and animal figures - that were painted in multiple colors. Sometimes intricate tinsel trimmings were added as well.

Tinsel Trimmed and Embellished Later Kugel Ornament
Tinsel Trimmed and Embellished Later Kugel Ornament
German Pre-WWII Christmas Tree Ornament
German Pre-WWII Christmas Tree Ornament

Pre WWII Ornaments

The Nazi Party began to infiltrate German home and work life in the 1920s. By the mid-1930s many everyday objects became symbols of the party or they were embellished to show support of, if not allegiance to the party.

The lyre ornament to the right was typical of ornaments made in Germany after producers began to experiment away from the Kugel designs in the 1920s. The addition of the heavy foil and paper sticker that is a stylized version of the Nazi Party eagle probably came later. It's somewhat common to see embellishments added to the center piece of lyre ornaments (cotton angels were common) but this was the first embellishment of this kind I've personally noticed.

Photo Credit: MJsConsignments

The War Years

Unsilvered German Ornaments with Tinsel from WWII Era
Unsilvered German Ornaments with Tinsel from WWII Era

During the 2nd World War, Germany had many other needs for silver. Though ornaments were still blown from colored glass, they were no longer layered inside with silver but, instead were left opaque. Often, a bit of tinsel was inserted inside before the ornament was capped. To finish it, basic hand painted designs (stripes and flowers in our photo) were added with minimal paint and materials.

These unsilvered ornaments are more fragile than their silver coated counter parts. They're harder for collectors to find in good condition but, because they're not as intricate as the later Kugel designs and their paint schemes are more basic, they tend to be less expensive than their predecessors.

Photo Credit: MJsConsignments

The Only Christmas Ornament Guide You Really Need

A fellow Ohioan, George Johnson, wrote "The Book" on Christmas Ornaments. If you want to know anything about German ornaments or those from anywhere else, you'll probably find it here. I haven't been steered wrong yet. The best thing about this book is that there are more than 2,000 photos. My only concern with it is that it was published in 2003 and it hasn't been updated that I'm aware of. It includes pricing information that is very out of date. Use that information as a basic guideline only for potential value and use your smart phone to find current value. This is a valuable resource regardless of the pricing drawback.

The Post War Years

Set of West German Glass Ball Ornaments
Set of West German Glass Ball Ornaments

The late 1940s and the early 1950s saw a lot of silvered glass balls produced in West Germany. Though hand painted, these lacked the shapes and intricate details of pre-war ornaments. They were more quickly produced and less detailed in design. American factories were putting out Christmas ornaments of similar glass quality with more color and more detail that were desired by consumers looking to avoid German products after the war and those who sought out bargains on multiple ornaments to decorate their trees. American companies like Shiny Bright would lead the way for many years while the German manufacturers slowly faded away.

Photo Credit: MJsConsignments

Glass Christmas Ornaments Available from Amazon

You never know what you'll find below. The ornaments in this section could be old, could be new. They could be one of a kind art glass pieces or mass produced sets. We've set this to "auto" so Amazon gets to pick. Check back often and see what's new!

Please Tell Us What You Love About Vintage Glass Ornaments

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    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 4 years ago

      I have some Vintage glass German and Czech ornaments...your collection here is nice, I especially like the glass deer.

    • mattcut profile image

      mattcut 4 years ago

      I lived in Germany for 10 years and I find the information presented here and the pictures of theses vintage ornaments extremely appealing ! Thank you for creating this LOVELY LENS !

    • PinkstonePictures profile image

      PinkstonePictures 4 years ago from Miami Beach, FL

      I love the German Christmas Markets and these ornaments

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      I love vintage glass ornaments. My daughter decorates her tree in them each year.

    • PatriciaJoy profile image

      PatriciaJoy 5 years ago from Michigan

      These have always been among my all time favorite types of ornaments. Lovely lens. Blessed by an angel.

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      love these... we had some on our Christmas Tree while I was growing up.

    • profile image

      MyBabyBoo 5 years ago

      Very nice lens, Thumbs up!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Oh my, these are very nice ornaments. I might have to collect a few of them. :)

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      I always have these very different kind of feeling toward vintage glass ornaments.

    • profile image

      Thamisgith 5 years ago

      These decorations look great.

    • YogaAngel profile image

      YogaAngel 5 years ago

      I love these types or ornaments!

    • LadyKeesh profile image

      LadyKeesh 5 years ago

      beautiful ornaments. Great lens.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 5 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      Memories, intricacy, looking at what each country, in this case Germany, was the best at producing. I have a few old silvered smallish ornaments, probably German, from my Mom. Very interesting and well laid out lens. :+)

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      The family memories -- my wife has a collection from her mother and grandmother that we cherish especially now that they are both no longer here in person.