We all have a favorite Christmas ornament. You know, the one that just caught your eye and you had to have it. Or, that special ornament that has so much sentimental value. Be that as it may, at some point you’ve probably asked yourself, “What are Christmas ornaments made of?” or, “how are glass Christmas decorations made?” If so, today is your turn to find out!
How are glass Christmas decorations made?
Interestingly, glass Christmas ornaments are made today in much the same way as when they were invented in 1847 in Lauscha, Germany.
In the late 16th century, long before glass Christmas ornaments made their debut, Lauscha was known for its custom glassware, including: drinkware, bottles, bowls, beads and glasses. Lauscha’s forest landscape provided plenty of glassmaking from timber, fine sand and local limestone.
At this time, German Europe celebrated Christmas by cutting down the Tannenbaum (Christmas tree), displaying it inside and decorating it with nuts, fruit and tinsel (that’s right, you can thank German Europe for the traditional Christmas tree and tinsel too! ).
One of Lauscha’s most famous glassmakers (and a direct descendant of one of the first glassmakers in Lauscha) was Hans Greiner. Greiner decided to go all out and make a more permanent display of the long famous German tradition of decorating the tree with nuts and fruits. Utilizing his skills in glass making, Greiner would create the sensational Christmas tradition we know and love today.
Molten glass tubes are mouth blown into nuts and fruit molds made of clay. Once cooled, the kugels (ornaments) were filled with a silver liquid, usually mercury or lead (later replaced by silver nitrate) to give them a silver appearance.
Fast forward to today, glass ornaments are made by taking a clear glass cylinder with a long blow pipe at the end and slowly heating it over a flame. The glass tube is rotated consistently, heating the glass evenly until it is soft enough (when it starts to glow) to expand. Once the entire bubbled end is glowing and warm, it’s time to give it a shape! The glass machine blows into the long tube, air fills the end of the glass bubble and expands it into whatever shape it has been placed into.