I Could Never Own That! It Would Break!

I could never own that, it would break.

Because it is the Christmas Season when many individuals put glass decorations on trees, I thought a little history about the fragile glass bobbles (not so unlike the ostrich eggshell art) that we put on Christmas trees would be fun.

In the late 16th century the German town of Lauscha, in the Duchy of Sachsen-Coburg, now in the German state of Thuringia (Thüringen), became known for its glass-blowing (Glasbläserei). The Thuringia region had been home to glassmaking as early as the 12th century. Lauscha, located in a river valley, had several elements needed for glass-making: timber (for firing the glass ovens) and sand. Christoph Müller and Hans Greiner set up Lauscha’s first glassworks in 1597. Soon other Glashütten (glassworks) were established in the town.

In 1847 Hans Greiner (who was a descendent of the Hans Greiner who had established Lauscha first glassworks) the artisans heated a glass tube over a flame, and then inserted the tube into a clay mold, blowing the heated glass to expand into the shape of the mold. The original ornaments were only in the shape of fruits and nuts. These were made in a very unique hand-blown process combined with molds. After the glass cooled, a silver nitrate solution was swirled into it, a silvering technique developed in the 1850s by Justus von Liebig. After the nitrate solution dried, the ornament was hand-painted and topped with a cap and hook.

Glass ornaments became popular in 1846 when an illustration of Queen Victoria Christmas tree was printed in a London paper. The royal tree was lavishly decorated with glass ornaments from Prince Albert’s native land of Germany. Soon these unique glass Christmas ornaments were being exported to other parts of Europe as the demand grew and grew.

In the 1880s it was the American dime-store magnate F. W. Woolworth who discovered Lauscha glassworks during a visit to Germany. Despite his initial reluctance to stock the glass ornament because he thought they would break, he later made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to the U.S. Ironically; he was selling $25 million worth of ornaments by 1890 at nickel and dime prices.

Germany continued manufacturing ornaments facing virtually no competition until 1925. Then Japan and Czechoslovakia began producing ornaments in large quantities for export to this country. By 1935, more then 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to the United States.

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