How to recognize old Christmas ornaments ...December 01, 2013
It takes quite a lot of knowledge to recognize really old baubles and other Christmas ornaments, but it's so much fun to do and, to me, quite an addiction. A really big and out of control addiction. I love thrifting the recycle stores, gently pushing aside all the modern ornaments and finding the items you hope to find, hearing "Haaaaaaaallelujaaaaa, halleluja, halleluja" pop up in your head when you actually do find what you hoped for.
Thrifting in recycle stores or at fleamarkets around Christmas time is comparable to the gates of hell, I tell ya. People around that time permit themselves to become anti-social and psychothic creatures; everything to get their paws on that one special Christmas item. Sometimes I think some people are about to growl at me, hiss, claw or go straight for the throat. All to get that special and unique Christmas ornament. That doesn't necessarily have to be antique; they easily push aside the antique ones that might fall to smithereens due to the fragility of the ornaments and the people's lack of care. Or some go 'apeshit' thinking they have antique ornaments in their hands which are actually modern ones re-created with vintage molds or Brocante ones (which were so popular last year) and which have 'old looking caps' in the eyes of a novice.
... Speaking of caps; these can be very good indicators to date ornaments but don't pinpoint a decade to it as caps have, most likely, been changed throughout the years. Generally, old caps are smaller and stiffer than newer ones, say, from the 1950s. Many ornaments don't come in their original boxes either or don't have their original tags anymore, so the collector needs to be able to recognize them through general attributes. Many collectors focus on themes, periods and materials or even shapes. Suffice to say probably, but antique ornaments are made from glass; mouth blown. I always check the baubles for the pontil. If the ornament is blown in free-form you can check this by observing if the ornament contains a lack of symmetry, which it usually has. Most of the glass-blown ornaments come from Germany. Most of my 1930s Christmas ornaments have written 'Germany' on their caps. Ornaments from the 1930s are usually silver, light in weight and have thin glass. I know for sure that most of my ornaments are from the 1930s as they have been inherited. Luckily most of them still have their original caps. A popular shape in the 1930s was the pinecone; this mold has been around since 1867. Most German glassblowers used molds to create a variety of glass ornaments called figurals. These figurals include pinecones, animals, flowers, fruits, vegetables, musical instruments, angels, Santa's, and sometimes even household items such as an umbrella. If you are not sure if the ornament is glass; you can lift the cap very gently. You can also check if it's glass when you drop it to see if it bounces or shatters but I would not recommend it ....
Most of the glass ornaments made during WWII had - instead of the traditional metal caps - paper caps because metal was needed for the war effort. Metal being needed in wartime instead of being used to decorate, made it that the Christmas baubles in wartime were mostly transparent. Usually the ornaments were silvered with their interiors coated with a silver solution to make them all shiny and reflective. Some people were complaining that the ornaments weren't shiny enough and thus some of the ornaments have tucked a bit of tinsel inside of them.
One more thing about the ornaments caps; I have seen many happy faces go sad when I tell them that the Christmas ornament with "stille nacht" written on them are not thát old. You can identify that by looking at the cap (these, believe me, usually have their original caps) and read: GDR. This means German Democratic Republic. And that means that these ornaments are 1970s or newer. Those ornaments I usually leave behind for someone else to grab. I am only interested for the ornaments from the 1920s/1930s up intil mid-war (1945).
Sunday next week there's a fleamarket in my former hometown Apeldoorn and I look very forward to visit it, usually it has Christmas stuff galore. It's one of the biggest fleamarkets in the Netherlands. Ben and I have our contacts there, people that we also meet at other fleamarkets around the country (well ... usually in Vaassen, Apeldoorn and Zutphen). It's important to keep contacts at bay; make a little chat everytime you see them and tell them what you are looking for. These people keep the best stuff behind for us and we pay them with gratitute and advertisement. With our looks as nostalgists we are easily approachable for a chat and it makes people remember you. We are well known in Apeldoorn and Zutphen at the fleamarkets or recycle stores. Most of the people say they have 'this and that at home, come visit us sometime'. So yes, it's important to make contact. This is Ben's part of the job usually (I just flutter my eyelashes to see if I can lower the prices; it works) ... he's very skilled in making contact and visits recycle stores in Zutphen and Warnsveld every week when they have a new load (it's just around the corner of our house) and makes a chat.
Most of the time I visit Christmas fleamarkets that are being held on the second day of Christmas (there's one in Zutphen the 26th) because most ornaments are reduced in prices that day. Cause after all, almost nobody buys ornaments then because their tree is already full. Well ... mine isn't! Not full enough!
I have many more identification and dating tips for you in store!