Shiny Brites: Vintage Glass Christmas Ornaments

This time of year brings back many memories for people from different times and moments in their life. And for me one of those memories would be of the ornaments on our Christmas tree. I find myself saying this a lot lately, but I’ll say it again… ‘If I only knew then what I know now!’

I grew up with an Angel for a tree topper, and Shiny Brite glass ornaments on the tree.

Do you remember Shiny Brite’s? Shiny Brite was actually the trade name of the ornaments, but the name has been confused over the years as the style name of the ornaments.

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And that’s probably because there were Shiny Brites in many colors, shapes, and sizes.

Like this assortment here.

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Do they look familiar to you?

Ornaments like these were all the rage in the 1950′s and 60′s, and remained popular into the 70′s and 80′s. But Shiny Brites have been around since before World War II. And now they are some of the most sought after vintage ornaments from Mid-Century times.

Before World War II Max Eckardt, an American businessman, had been importing Christmas tree ornaments from Germany. This was where most decorations came from at the time, but Eckardt’s company specialized in hand-blown glass ornaments similar to these ones from Poland.

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These imported glass ornaments, so colorful and fun, were extremely popular.

But as the war drew closer, Eckardt realized his ability to import ornaments from Germany would end. It was this foresight that led to the decision to start making glass ornaments in the United States. And so… Shiny Brite was established. The rest they say, is history.

And if you’re after vintage Shiny Brites, don’t be fooled. If you don’t know what you’re looking for in the vintage aspect, just be aware that today many of these designs are in reproduction by Christopher Radko. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a reproduction thing. But you also need to make sure dealers aren’t duping you! Just because the box says Shiny Brite doesn’t mean the ornaments inside are Shiny Brites!

So what do you look for in a vintage Shiny Brite ornament?

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Well for one, classic colours and designs like these.

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Or a ribbed, scalloped cap that’s been marked ‘Shiny Brite Made in U.S.A.’, which was introduced post World War II.

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Shiny Brites pre World War II won’t be stamped with ‘Shiny Brite Made in the U.S.A.’

But you might be lucky enough to come across a rare Shiny Brite with a paper cap.

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These were made during World War II when not only were the caps constructed of cardboard, but glass ornaments that were normally coated with silver nitrate were left clear, and then hand painted in bright colours and pastels. And that’s because silver nitrate and metal were needed for the war.

So how else can you identify a vintage Shiny Brite?

Shape and colour palette.

Early styles were ball-shaped and featured a striped design in pastel shades.

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These ones are c.  early 1940′s.

More vivid colors were added in the ’50s and ’60s…

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And you’ll find ornaments decorated with the glittering effect of crushed mica (minerals), also post World War II creations.

An assortment of shapes was introduced as well, which you see here on the popular aluminum tree of the 1950′s.

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Kind of fits with the streamlined, futuristic look of Mid-Century Modern times, doesn’t it?

One of the more intricate designs after World War II is a concave starburst, called a reflector.

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I love these ones! But these are also the ones you need to be very careful in double-checking if it’s vintage you’re after, because you’ll find many beautiful Radko reproductions in circulation, and Radkos are dated from 1985 onward.

But you know, it’s like anything. In the end, what you really need to decide for yourself is if you’re after true vintage ‘Shiny Brites’, ‘vintage’ glass ornaments that aren’t Shiny Brites, or if you’re seeking ornaments that have this look, but vintage authenticity isn’t necessary. They are very different things. Once you know what your attraction is and how you place value on that, it’s much easier to move forward in finding what you’re looking for!

What do you remember about Christmas decorations from your childhood?

Thanks for stopping by!

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Comments

  1. Shelley@2jacs says:

    Oh wow…does this bring back memories! Decorating the tree at grandma’s with those exact same Shiny Brite ornaments! Oh the colours! This would be followed by my grandfather, who would throw handfuls of silver tinsel on the tree and be done with it! Ha! Oh yes, the memories:) Thanks for bringing those back Sheila…great post!

    • I hear you Shelley! My grandparents had them too, and I was very close to them as I grew up, so I always remember the various occasions. And it’s things like these ornaments that spark the memories… So, did your grandfather get away with throwing the tinsel, or did he throw it and run? ;-)

  2. Terrific post, Sheila! I definitely remember ornaments like these on our Christmas trees :-) I have a vintage garland that I use in my tree every year… it’s very important to me and I love it! Of course my kids think I’m weird ;-) I’ll write about it one day!
    Victoria

  3. What a great post! It actually made me tear up remembering those old ornaments. When my parents were downsizing, they had a huge garage sale, my mum showed me some Christmas ornaments and asked if I wanted them. Seeing that they were the new ones, i said no – well it turned out the old ones were underneath, so we sold a box of them for $5. agghhh. i regret that every year. They were the old cardboard birds with the mica glitter, their head came off and had no feathers, just the glitter wings. I miss those birds like crazy! I found a few different ornaments after my mum died and gave my brother 1/2, so he had 3, I had 3 – saying if you don’t want these, let me know i’ll take them. Well… his wife let them go, so…. no I do cling on to my old remaining 3 that i have – love them! Great post.

  4. Eileen Gunn says:

    I am extremely lucky to have several of the old glass Shiny Brite Christmas ornaments. My most favorite Christmas ornaments are the glass bells I was given from Santa at the Hudsons Bay dept store – I still have 2 of them. I also have some of the glass bead garland strings. Homemade ornaments and ones that the children have made over the years are also favorites. I’m often told that my tree looks like a Charlie Brown tree – but to us every ornament is special!

    • Thank you so much for leaving a comment! It was awesome to hear from you! I love that you have some Shiny Brites! And what a treasure to have such a great memory with the bells from Santa. I bet your tree looks awesome. It’s the fact that your ornaments are special that really matter – I think that’s what it’s all about!
      Love to you – I think about you a lot!
      xo Sheila

  5. Sheila, this post was so timely. I was lucky enough to inherit a few boxes of these vintage ornaments from my mother-in-law. I never fully appreciated them until recently but now they are my most special ornaments. Loved this post.

  6. I feel VERY old when I see someone’s writing “my Grandparents” I am Great Grant Parent and I have “Gasskugeln” on my tree, Thanks Sheila great story and we sure have lots of tinsel, too U.

  7. These also bring back memories for me as well – next time I’m up at my Mom’s I’m going to be inspecting the ornaments that look similar to the ones above to see if they are Shiny Brites. My Mom has some great stuff as her father (my grandfather) was an auctioneer! Fun, nostalgic, timely post Sheila! Hope you’re having a great weekend.

  8. What a great big smile I have on my face after reading this! Love it. This are the ornaments I grew up with and I never thought about the history. This was a great post- I really loved it! Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to share with my family and friends. We all will be looking at our old ornaments to see if we have the ‘real’ stuff!

  9. Thanks for this lovely and informative post! I have collected vintage Christmas ornaments my whole life and, I have to admit, they are noted in my will! No inadvertent garage sale for these treasures! I also have six boxes of crinkly old lead tinsel. My husband puts it on the tree strand by strand, and then, the day after New Year’s, takes it all off again and puts in back in its special boxes. You can hardly find it anymore, as of course nobody makes anything with lead in it, but neither my children nor their children have suffered from having it on the tree the last 30 years! Sometimes you can buy vintage lead tinsel from dealers in paper ephemera…they collect it for the boxes. It gives the most beautiful shimmer to the tree…makes me and my family happy every year!

  10. Fabulous, informative post! I have an affinity for nostalgic ornaments like these and am glad to know more about “Shiny Brite.” Now I need to scour my collection!
    Thanks!
    Nancy

  11. Great post. I always like to know the history behind things so this was very informative. I took photos last year of my parents vintage ornaments (that you can see here http://gracie-senseandsimplicity.blogspot.com/2010/12/vintage-christmas-decorations.html). My Mom said they mostly bought ornaments imported from Germany and Czechoslovakia in the 1950s here in Canada. Not sure why she doesn’t have any Shiny Brite ornamnets, but she doesn’t.

    • Hi Grace,
      Thank you so much for sharing the link to your blog post… your parents vintage ornaments are just beautiful! Shiny Brites were modeled after ornaments like your parents have… does it get any better than that? Wow :-) I’m looking forward to following your posts!
      xo Sheila

  12. Thank you so much for this post! I learned an incredible amount reading it. Of course, I had to go through my ornaments. There are lots of Shiny Brites. Some I didn’t know until I read the caps with an eye loop. 7 bells are from Czechoslovakia, 13 bells from West Germany. I am very excited. Grandma did well and I’m thankful to have them.
    Thanks again!

    • Hi Kat!
      Thank you for stopping by my blog :-) It makes me so happy to know that you found the info. useful. But I’m even more thrilled that you have such an amazing collection of Shiny Brites! You are very lucky, and even more so because yours have been passed on to you from within your family. Such a great story! I’ve stopped by your blog as well, and really like your outlook.
      Have a great Christmas.
      xo Sheila

  13. My parents had many shiny brites as we grew up. When I married in 1961, my husband’s parents gave us all their old decorations as they were in to the aluminum trees then. Of course the majority were Shiny Brites and from W. Germany. There were several of the nursery rhyme Shiny Brites. Through the years as my two sons grew, many of the ornamnets broke, including my youngest son’s beloved nursery rhymes. My youngest son would mention those nursery rhyme ones to his wife every year. Three years ago I started to hunt for his beloved nursery rhymes. It took me 3 years to find 10 of them. I gave them to him last Christmas he was sooo very happy, even at the age of 43 he loved those Shiny Brites. I still need Mary Had Little Lamb and Little Jack Horner who sat in a corner LOL. I am a collector of vintage Christmas ornaments and sale them on ebay. I just love the oldie but goodies. Thanks for a wonderful story.

    • Hi Brenda!
      Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such a great comment! I love the story behind your son’s ornaments, and I really hope you are able to find Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Little Jack Horner… Very cool that you collect and sell vintage ornaments on Ebay… this article has had enormous response, and many are trying to find a few ornaments for their own collections. Maybe they’ll find the ones you have for sale? I completely agree with you – they definitely don’t make them like they used to!
      Thank you again for sharing a little piece of your story :-)
      Sheila

  14. I enjoyed your blog entry so much. We had Shiny Brites when I was a kid in the 70s, but it wasn’t until the last year that I really starting noticing all the fantastic shapes. I’ve been collecting those this year, thinking they would be perfect for a space-age aluminum Christmas tree (only my 2nd year ever experiencing this type of tree). It’s been fun, though I like traditional lives trees too (and usually have one of those for even older vintage & antique lights and decorations). I may not get to ye olde style tree this year but I did take a bunch of photos of the mid-century retro tree with Shiny Brites here: http://bindlegrim.blogspot.com/2011/12/shiny-brite-aluminum-christmas-tree.html. I didn’t really get into the history of Shiny Brites, and I hope you don’t mind that I linked to your informative blog entry. Happy Holidays!

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, and for linking to my site in your post. I’ve popped over and read it. Your photographs are stunning, and I love the ornaments you featured!

  15. I love your post! I have supplemented the few surviving glass ornaments from childhood with some found here and there. Great to know the story behind Shiny Brites! Sharing this great post on Facebook for others to enjoy :)

  16. Cecelia Cook says:

    Unfortunately my Mother insisted that we tie these ornaments on the tree with green thread – she would not use metal hangers. She had numerous concave ones, and tri-colored oval ones with little bumps on them (painted red and blue; the silver served s the white) and many with small ones with painting on the side, and some that are pointed – most of these are burgundy in color. Because she inisted on securing the ornaments with thread (and you have to tie knots), our little fingers dropped many of Mama’s Pre-World War II glass ornaments. My sister and I split the few remaining after my parents died and now each Christmas I have a 4′ stick tree which I set up as my “rememberance tree” and I decorate it with remaining heritage balls and small photo frames with photos of departed parents, grandchildren and Christmas trees of past years. I would not take anything for my ornaments – they are all that remain of early Christmases before we had cameras.

    • Hi Cecelia!
      Thank you so much for the very lovely comment. I so appreciate the time you took to share your story, and I love the image of your stick tree. What a great idea to have a dedicated remembrance tree, and such a nice feature at a time when remembering our loved ones is what it’s all about. I’m with you – I would not ever part with any of mine either! I would love to see a photo of your remembrance tree sometime!
      Thank you again for stopping by, and for leaving such an inspiring comment,
      Sheila

  17. Camille Schaeffer says:

    Thanks for this great post. I LOVE these ornaments so much and shared the ones my parents had with my other 3 siblings. I also bought some at antiques shops and on ebay but work really hard to keep the ones my parents had separate from the others. They just remind me so much of Christmases past and mean a lot to me. I have bought the Radko ones too and there is no comparison. Although the Radko ones are beautiful, the color is so very strong and there is no age patina on them. Pretty, but not the same.

    • Hi Camille,
      Thank you for stopping by, and for leaving such a nice comment. I feel the same way about keeping the ornaments separated. There’s just something so special about the ones from your parents, the memories they bring back… I was interested to read your thoughts on the Radko ornaments. Thank you for that feedback. I don’t have any of Radkos, but I am also more partial to the patina… the aged authenticity of the Shiny Brites.
      Thank you again for your comment. I hope you get many more years of enjoyment from your beautiful ornaments!
      Sheila

  18. My grandmother had Shiny Brights and many other Polish glass ornaments. I don’t know who in my family has them and I was so upset that I bought a set of Polish ornaments on ebay for more than I would spend usually, but it is worth it to me! There are 36, 1/34″ in diameter, there are about 18 of the star bursts and the rest have the satin finish mixed with the shiny finish and mica designs. One has Santa and one has a bird of paradise flower on it. There are a few more with feathery looking mica designs on shiny fuschia balls. I haven’t received them yet but they are in great condition and I am wondering if you could tell me anything about them? Thanks!

  19. I recently purchased a Shiny Brite ornament. At least I think it is. But, the cap doesn’t say Shiny Brite. It simply has the number ’5′ on it in three or four places. Any insight as to what this is?

  20. I have a question. I know for these are old bc they’re we’re my gramas lol. And the boxed say shiny brite, coby, and Noelle. And they’re all marked shiny bright or made in USA or just blank but there is no way to differentiate to them bc 3 of the same ornaments will have 3 different caps. Any who my question is if the color fades around the mouth( like its clear but with color. Like stained glass) does that it’s bad? Also I broke 2 and rubbed the inside. On both the color rubbed off but one left silver on my finger and the other didn’t. If I rub the outside color and its clear right away is that better then if it shows silver instead? Plz help thanks

  21. Dear SZInteriors: Thanks for the information about Shiny Brite ornaments. Just one correction: the ornaments shown on the aluminum tree are NOT Shiny Brites with the exception of two, possibly three. Instead, the ornaments on the tree are a combination of vintage Polish ornaments and new ornaments of recent production. Also, in the past couple of years, I have seen reproductions of the double indent Shiny Brites in JoAnn Fabrics stores, but I have not been able to get information about the manufacturer which was clearly not Radko. Do you know anything of these ornaments or how to track their maker?

  22. Hi all. Is there anyone out there who might be an “expert” or serious collector of shiny brite ornaments?

    About 15 years ago, or so, we lost all of our old ornaments. I managed to find a few good boxes on eBay. I would say 98% of the replaces what we had, and the rest were new to us.

    However, my favorite one of all was not in the bunch. I continue to look at all the pictures on eBay to find the elusive ornament. So far, no luck.

    If anyone can help me track one down, it would be appreciated. I can describe it pretty well, but it still might require the aid of an expert.

    Please write me directly at patrick_jd@yahoo.com

    Patrick DeBlasi

  23. I love the memories these little bits of glass bring. I have a gold and silver ornament with white glitter from my grandparents tree.
    My wife and I have collected 4 trees full or ornaments. The most recent one has Shiny Brite and other vinage ornaments with some new “old looking” ones. I lucked out when a neighbor cleaned out the their basement and tossed out a dozen small bells and round ornaments in the original box. I also found a Craigslist add with 60 vintage ornaments some Shiny Brite, for ten dollars.
    1Those are as treasured as if they were passed down in the family. I feel good every time I see them.
    You have highlighted these little treasures and the memories most of us have of them.
    rick

    • Hi Rick,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your connection to Shiny Brites with us! I am so with you – whether passed down or acquired in another way, I really treasure these ornaments for the memories they bring and hold… and 60 vintage ornaments for $10? What an awesome good deal, especially with some Shiny Brites in the mix – jack pot!!

  24. Lizzie Saito says:

    I love vintage ornaments! That’s why almost all my Christmas Tree ornaments are vintage hand blown glass ornaments like Murano and from Russia. I buy these from antique shops, art galleries, eBay and from Glasslilie. Thank you for sharing!

  25. I have two glass bell shaped ornaments that were my mothers. They have tinsel inside and are made in the usa Are they worth anything?

    • Hi Mary,
      Thank you for stopping by my blog, and my apologies for taking so long to respond. Yes, your ornaments will have some value, but what that means is subjective. How much value depends on their condition and circa, and how rare they are. Bells are often slightly higher in value as they are harder to find due to their more limited production, and certainly with the tinsel inside. That’s about all I can tell you. You are so fortunate to have had these handed down to you – that is a rarity!!

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