(read about sorting through vintage Christmas ornaments in 2009 on this post)
I'm always inspired by Beth's posts on sorting through her auction finds. When a big box of Christmas ornaments came my way the other day, I thought I'd invite you to sort along with me. The first job is to sort the good ornaments from the junk. The junk is usually pretty obvious, but not always.
This one ended up in the junk pile - it's vintage, but a cheaper, later brand. It doesn't look too bad on its own, but next to a lovely old Shiny Brite, the difference is much more apparent.
I'm keeping this one, but I've got to be careful that it goes on my tree and doesn't get sold. It looks OK with the hanger on it, but it's got a problem ...
a broken pike. The pike is that skinny neck where the hanger goes. Sometimes there's enough damage to the pike that the hanger doesn't fit quite right. It usually makes the ornament a lot more vulnerable to damage. But this one's pretty enough otherwise to use as long as it holds up.
Another "oops" - a break in the indent. The photo makes it easy to see. In reality, it's not always so obvious. If you're buying indents, make sure to check.
Now that all the stuff that will either get thrown out or sent to the thrift store is gone, it's time to look at what's left.
A pile of Shiny Brites. Shiny Brites are easy to identify. The colors and designs are classic, and they almost always have the ribbed, scalloped cap that's marked Shiny Brite.
I do have a few older Shiny Brites that don't have the ribbed cap but are stamped Shiny Brite, but 9 times out of 10, this is the cap to look for.
A pile of ornaments made in Poland. The caps on these also are stamped Poland, which makes them easy to identify, but they have such a distinctive style that once you see them a few times, you'll recognize them immediately. Much as I love every vintage ornament, I probably have a bit of a preference for the Polands. The colors are wonderful, and there are great handpainted details. Some day, I'll get out the gorgeous handpainted Santas and angels and flowers to show you.
Some round indents from Poland.
Some teardrop-shaped ornaments from Poland.
See how pretty even the backs are? The horizontal panels, the "fish scales" and the quadrant design on the left are really classic treatments on the Poland ornaments.
Often there's a more detailed design, like a bough of leaves or a dragonfly.
This box also had some individual examples of different ornament styles - a fancy beaded glass ornament probably made in Czechoslovakia (it's in a tiny glass bowl to hold it for the photo), a milk glass Santa and a glass pipe figural ornament. The ornaments that really made me want this box, though, are these ones...
Unsilvered ornaments from the World War II era. In addition to being so lovely and ethereal - I think they look like bubbles about to float away - they come with a little history lesson. Most vintage glass ornaments are "silvered," with their interiors coated with a silver solution to make the ornaments shiny and reflective. During World War II, though, metal was in short supply and too precious to be used for Christmas ornaments - hence, the "unsilvered" ornaments.
Some customers complained that the unsilvered ornaments weren't sparkly enough (somehow, whining about un-sparkly Christmas ornaments doesn't fit with my image of that plucky World War II generation, but there you are) so manufacturers started tucking a sprig of tinsel inside them. Occasionally you'll come across an unsilvered ornament with a cardboard or paper cap. At some point during the war, there wasn't enough metal even for a tiny cap.
Some tiny, clear Shiny Brite bells with colored stripes and sparkly mica.
And larger, unsilvered Shiny Brites. I think I have to put these on eBay because if memory serves me correctly, these are kind of coveted by collectors. I've got to support my habit somehow. As thrifting/sale seasons go, this has been an absolutely spectacular year for finding ornaments. There are some years - last year, for example - where ornaments seem few and far between. I'm going to need to go through the whole season's worth pretty soon to figure out what I'm keeping and what I'm selling, and that's going to be fun. A little overwhelming, but fun.