Thursday, December 6, 2012

Floss Among the Dross

The day after Thanksgiving, Boy and I drove across the Hudson River in search of vintage Christmas ornaments to add to our collection.  Our destination was a large and rather seedy group shoppe in one of the near-forgotton, near-abandoned towns that line the river's western banks.

We've had good luck finding pretty, old-fashioned ornaments at the shoppe in the past.  The first time we visited it, a dozen or so years ago, we came away with an avalanche of attractive and unusually shaped vintage ornaments.  Over the years, though, the shoppe's ornament pickings have become increasingly slim, with fewer and fewer attractive vintage ones to be found among the ugly, modern plastic Christmas junk that appears in the shoppe's booths from Thanksgiving onwards.

This visit, however, we despaired that we would find any vintage ornaments worth buying at all.  Although there were some plain round vintage ones to be found, we weren't interested in adding any more of them to our collection, since we already have more plain round ones than we could ever use.  No, we were on the hunt for interestingly shaped vintage blown-glass ornaments.

It was only in the final minute of our troll through the shoppe that Boy found two ornaments—shown in this essay's photograph—that met our collecting standards.  That one of them was shaped like a pine-cone was a particular joy, as Boy specifically collects that form.  He scooped them both up and we happily brought them back to Darlington House where they will most assuredly soon hang on the Christmas tree we plan on putting up this weekend.

Tell me, Dear Reader, do you also collect vintage Christmas ornaments?  If so, is there a particular shape or type that you focus on?

Photograph by Boy Fenwick


  1. Hello Reggie,
    What charming ornaments! I'm sure your tree with look beautiful with them. Hopefully, you post a picture for us to see. To answer your question, I have several pink and gold German ornaments that I think are from the 1960s. However, most of the ornaments on my tree were either gifts from friends or purchased to celebrate important events.

  2. Can't compare to your incredible vintage find but might you use these new ones as part of the gift wrapping on Boy's gift?

  3. I would love to collect vintage ornaments - the modern plastic ones are questionable, at best, and so cheaply made.

    My parents have a lovely set of papier-mache round ornaments that are quite charming in their tree, and not particularly breakable, so I have been considering something of that sort (as we're also looking at small children and pets in our future, this is a consideration).

    In the meantime, however, this is my first year living with my spouse, and my first year with a tree of my very own, and we've put together a lovely tree (partially with your inspiration) decorated with dried orange slices, strung star anise (which smells lovely), and small figurines nestled in the branches. It isn't the most elaborate, but it certainly beats the mass-produced ornaments we're seeing everywhere! Thank you for the inspiration!

  4. I seek out the old Santa shaped ornaments. My mother has 2nd small tree in her dining room that she decorates exclusively with German antique ornaments and it is gorgeous!
    I do like the two you found...

  5. They are simply charming. However, can ornaments be antiqued in a manner as furniture can acquire the aged look?

  6. For several Christmases after I was first married, I was gifted with my favorite shape vintage ornament. It is the elongated with both ends pointed. I have a few of my grandmother's that are shaped like a cross between a beehive and ice cream cone, for lack of a better description. I really love the patina on the these old glass ornaments. I plan on hanging some from a tabletop tree that has yet to be purchased.

  7. sweet ornaments! I, too, love the pinecones, but I think my favorite are the clip on birdies with whispy tails. I have a few that are from my childhood tree and I cherish them.

  8. Dear Reggie - I can imagine the joy of finding these two handsome ornaments, and their patina adds so much richness!

  9. Dear Reggie,
    I particularly like the colour of those decorations in your photograph. I should imagine they would go well with the greenery.
    For my part I too like to collect acorn shaped ones as well as authentic German wooden decorations (vintage and modern). The problem is that there are so many fakes - even here in Germany!

  10. i LOVE vintage ornaments AND those metal reflectors we used to put behind the tree lights in the 50's. i've made some great 'hauls' in the past - usually at yard sales and often still in their original boxes. i, too, love the pinecone shape but my favourites are the round ones with the deep depression on one side that's painted in some sort of mirror-like paint. they also reflect the lights on the tree.! :)

  11. Dear RD, You guys have such great taste and style. My favorite ornaments are about two dozen mini-mirrored disco balls (probably made in India) Billy and I purchased at the now closed Liberace Museum, which was in beautiful Las Vegas, NV

  12. We collect the old ornaments -- and feel fortunate when we can find some and like you I have gotten pickier about the ones that I want to bring home. We also have a 43 year collection of ornaments that we often use to decorate our tree. Big old fashioned lights and tinsel as well!

  13. Wonderful! I'm so glad to know that someone else collects glass ornaments in the shape of pine cones....acorns are also a favorite of mi ne. Merry Christmas!

  14. So beautiful! I don't celebrate Christmas (unless I am with friends who do) but these are a treasure.

  15. The fact that they are getting hard to find should make you cherish them the more. Ornaments are one of the few things I don't collect, but they are probably like most collectibles, seemingly everywhere, then the supply suddenly dries up.

  16. Dear Reggie,

    What a marvellous idea to collect vintage Christmas tree ornaments, and I do love the golden pine cone. Although we do not do that as such, we do however collect singular, and in our mind particularly beautiful and unusual ornaments for our tree. Over the years we have amassed quite a collection. I am afraid that those boxed and matching cheap sets are not for us.

  17. Anonymous asks if there is a way to age ornaments- My suggestion and something I have used to "knock back" garish colors on things is amber shellac - one can also use a walnut stain (sparingly) -Used that on a bunch of those "Readers Digest" books to fill a very high shelf in a friends library (one couldn't tell what they were)

  18. Hello Reggie,

    I too collect vintage ornaments to place on both my feather tree and evergreen tree (I prefer the symmetrical shape of the Silvertip tree (Abies Magnifica), that grows at higher elevations on the West Coast, as the branches are spaced to showcase ornaments better than the other tree varieties available to us here, in my opinion).

    Aside from the round small balls, I have more pine cones than any other shape (my favorite ones were produced in Japan during the 1940s, I believe). I also love to collect grapes, acorns, indents and the various oddly shaped forms that were popular in the 1920s and 30s.

    I used to decorate my trees in shades of turquoise blue and silver, but since changing the color scheme of my rooms, I now decorate my trees in shades of gold, green, amber and silver.

    My most prized ornament was found at the Covent Garden antiques market in London - a huge emerald green Victorian "witches ball" or kugel, complete with its original intricately stamped hanging chain. I have yet to see one of these beautiful chains anywhere else, which leads me to believe they must be scarce.

    The worst experience for a vintage glass ornament collector is the inevitable breakage that is bound to happen to the most careful of collectors. I am still mourning the loss of a favorite 1920s silver round indent ornament that had a daisy painted on the indentation, more than six years later.

    I hope your loyal readers will be treated to a photograph or two of your decorated tree in situ this year. I'm sure it will be a sight to behold.

  19. I don't collect any Christmas ornaments but when I think of all the blown glass ones we would have dropped, crushed and otherwise carelessly destroyed I could cry. Actually, I do have a pine cone like yours but it's very green.

    I will put up the tiny wooden Italian angels that my mother bought in the early sixties, I think.

    Any snow on the way?

  20. Hi there Reggie,

    Do things become Vintage, after 20 years? If so, most/all the Christmas ornaments I have, and a lot of my clothing is Vintage that I bought myself (brand new, back in the day).

    Here at Whimsey Hill House, I put up two trees yearly. One is big and the other is small. I have a large collection of Santa Clauses and reproductions of old fashioned ornaments. One year the Santas are on the big tree, and the next year it is the old fashioned looking ornament,(I keep switching off). Some of the ornaments I bought as far back as the late 1960's.

    I find it funny to see how quick time has flown by, when I put even a Hallmark ornament on the tree, that says 1983 on it. That was the year, I bought my first house.

    Merry Christmas to You and Boy, and ALL of your readers, Happy 2013!

  21. Yes, I, too, collect vintage ornaments. The small ones of different sizes are on a feather tree. My favorites are in the shape of icicles. I also have over-sized ones for the regular tree along with scads of vintage aluminum icicles as tinsel. I found some of the most unusual oversized ornaments at Dullsville in NYC. It's been years since I've been and sadly I believe is no longer open.

  22. Reggie,
    They are wonderful-so great when one find that needle in a haystack. I look forward to seeing what you and Boy come up with this year!

  23. Christmas was always spent with my father and his parents in Chatham New Jersey. On Christmas Eve, we would decorate the tree and Christmas Carolers would come to the door and sing Silent Night or Deck the Halls. And if we were super lucky,snow would come Christmas eve during the night after we had decorated the tree, played a game of Go Fish and my sister and I had gone to bed. Our father stayed up late with our grandparents, drinking wine and wrapping presents.

    My absolute fondest memories of Christmas are of taking down the ornaments from the attic, unwrapping each one and delighting in seeing it again. We all had our favorites and I can see them now clearly after many years and many family stories.

    And what remains? I use to search for similar decorations to recapture those ornaments, those moments but eventually, I have collected new ornaments, new stories and my children now look forward to unwrapping our ornaments collected at Barneys and Bergdorfs, a few from my childhood and many that I buy just for them. Glass ballerinas for my daughter and sharks for my son - so now we have this really amazing and fantastic menagerie on our tree.

    And as we unwrap our ornaments, I can see their memories being created and favorite ornaments being stored away in those memories. But I am glad that it is not just the ornaments of Christmases past that will make up their happy memories but the ornaments that we collect together, the unwrapping, the music on the stereo and finding just the right spot on the tree for each ornament.

    Happy Holidays Reggie Darling and Boy! I look forward to reading about Christmas at Darlington Hall!

  24. To Saugerties the weekend before last for lunch with friends at Miss Lucy's (OK food, but lots of young couples with even younger children). The antique shoppes on Main Street had just the sort of stuff you were looking for, and we got a splendid book of genuine teatime recipes for $1 (and all the measurements in weights rather than volume) which I shall put to work in preparation for next weekend's Christmas Tree Decorating reception in the city.

  25. I treasure my vintage glass ornaments from the 1920s-50s. They were my grandparents', we decorated with them when I was growing up, and now I use them on the Christmas tree in my own home. They are of very thin, almost transparent glass, and their paint is also fragile. Unfortunately they have become sticky with tree sap and dusty. Do you have any advice on how to clean them, or is it better just to let them be a bit grimy?

  26. I have oodles of vintage ornaments...all shapes and those you have pictured here...

  27. I used to have lovely glass ornaments. Many of them were sweet vintage pieces such as yours but then I got a cat who loved to climb through the Christmas tree branches and knock the assorted dazzlers to the ground. So, my collection gradually changed over to soft, hand made ornaments of a more folk art-ish feel; things that would not break if they fell to the floor. The first year I made the switch, the hung ornaments were simply trumpeting angel cookies and dried orange slices (that was 20 years ago). Two more cats and a dog later, I have finally relinquished the last of the old glass ornaments, an original box of Shiny Brites that I have kept in storage, giving them to a friend who was thrilled.


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails