The Cool Stories Behind Vintage Christmas Ornaments

Take a stroll down memory lane.

vintage christmas ornaments

Are you ready for a bunch of beautiful Christmas-y eye candy? How about some history to go along with it? The practice of holiday tree trimming isn't just fun; the designs of the ornaments themselves provide a surprising chronicle of the times in which they were produced. You'll have to hit up a flea market, your grandma's basement, or, you know, Etsy, to find these decorations now—or you can just keep scrolling.

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Unsilvered Paper Hanger Bulbs

When the manufacturing demands of World War II led to metal rationing, ornament makers used paper hangers and cardboard caps to top unsilvered bulbs. The unusual restrictions now make the charming decorations especially .

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German Kugels

Originally sold as , kugels (which means "spheres" in German), appeared on the scene in the early 1800s. They were the first iteration of glass ornaments (a style that has now persisted for decades), and it's rare to find originals with the color still vibrant — many pieces have worn over time.

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Glass Figurals

Lauscha, Germany, was known as the  of the world from the turn of the century through World War II, and turned out impressive sculptural pieces.

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Indented Baubles

Originally meant to  on Christmas trees in Victorian times, they felt delightfully retro even decades ago. The indented ball also had a resurgence in the middle of the 20th century.

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Glass Baubles

Here's another version that proves these ornaments don't just have to be classic spheres. 

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Diorama Style

We can thank  for starting this nifty trend in the 1950s. A hollowed-out ornament (like this vintage-inspired piece) will showcase a festive scene, snowy landscape or other seasonal element.

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Wooden Rocking Horse

Wooden ornaments also became popular during this time and beyond, including creations such as this rocking horse.

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Cotton Fruit

Soft, hard-to-break ornaments  filled Christmas trees from the 1890s to the 1920s. Children even continued to play with them after the tree was taken down — something you definitely can't do with glass. You may remember these from a much later decade too. Collectors clamored for them again in the 1980s.

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Cotton and Wood Figures

Many of the cotton ornaments were made to resemble people (often Santa Claus), had faces made of porcelain or wood and were first made in the 1920s.

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Goose Egg Ornaments

Another take on the diorama-style design was the goose egg ornament. This one appears to have been given for a baby boy's first Christmas.

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Finial Topper

This shiny, alternative Christmas tree topper made a big splash in the 1960s. Do you remember owning one?

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Shiny Brites

Taking a cue from the , people in the 1950s loved hanging glass balls like Shiny Brites. The baubles often came in saturated colors to match .

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Glass Santas
Betty Bell

Santa came in a variety of iterations, and provided a very festive take on the glass ornament explosion in the 1920s.

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Dresden Animal
Betty Bell

From the , Dresdens—ornaments named after the  in which they were created—appeared. Delicately handcrafted out of paper, they're now the most expensive vintage ornaments on the market today. Even this not-so-festive (but beautifully made) owl will set you back big time.

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Glass Garland

The  (early 1900s) provided another look at the very first iterations of the trends we love today. Here, glass ornaments hang together to make a colorful garland.

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Courtesy of Made In a Day
Bottle Brush Tree

Patented in the , bottle brush Christmas trees became popular. Here, a modern take puts a tree in the middle of an embroidery hoop.

What you'll need: embroidery hoop ($10.58 for 6, ), bottle brush tree ($15.89 for 24, ), ribbon ($5, )

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Bottle Brush Comeback

This little trio was a part of a 1980s Kurt Adler set of bottle brush ornaments. He also incorporated small, wooden figurines: a clown, Santa Claus and a snowman.

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