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.
And that’s probably because there were Shiny Brites in many colors, shapes, and sizes.
Like this assortment here.
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.
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?
Well for one, classic colours and designs like these.
Or a ribbed, scalloped cap that’s been marked ‘Shiny Brite Made in U.S.A.’, which was introduced post World War II.
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.
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.
These ones are c. early 1940′s.
More vivid colors were added in the ’50s and ’60s…
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.
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.
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?
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