Decorating the Christmas tree is a longstanding tradition for many families; if you’re hoping to add midcentury appeal to your home this Christmas, consider using Shiny Brite ornaments to dress your tree and give your home a touch of vintage authenticity.
These hand-blown glass ornaments were first produced in Germany in the mid-19th century, but in the midst of World War II, European imports were banned and Shiny Brites were no longer available to families in the US. German immigrant Max Eckardt took this as an opportunity to bring the ornaments to the states and teamed up with the Corning Glass Company, establishing the Shiny Brite company in 1939.
Corning, originally a light bulb manufacturer, adapted their process to making clear glass ornaments. Once the ornaments were produced, they were shipped to Eckardt’s factories in the US where they were painted by hand. But in the 60s, with the need for cheap, unbreakable ornaments, Shiny Brites began to decline in popularity and soon after, the Shiny Brite company closed its doors.
If you have vintage Shiny Brites in your home, passed down through the years, consider yourself lucky. But if you’re looking to add these pieces to your collection today, there are still many places where you can find the ornaments—it just takes a bit of hunting. Estate sales or garage sales are great places to look, or browse ebay for a large selection of these antique treasures.
Since 2001, Shiny Brites have been reproduced under the same trademark by Christopher Radko. Their newly painted and detailed Shiny Brites are available at any major department store including Macys or Nordstrom.
To clean Shiny Brites, use a clean cotton cloth or feather duster to gently wipe away dust. Do not use water or chemical-based solutions to clean the ornaments, as they can damage the original paint and designs.
These ornaments are delicate, so keep them away from extreme temperatures. Find a hall closet or someplace where temperatures remain moderate throughout the year, and avoid storing them in an attic or basement. Keep the ornaments out of direct sunlight to avoid fading.
Individually wrap the bulbs in acid-free tissue paper or cotton batting. Ornaments often arrive in decorative boxes meant to display their beauty, but they aren’t reliable for storage. Opt for sturdy and padded China protectors, which serve well as dividers to prevent scratches and keep away dust.
If your vintage ornaments appear faded, or your newly purchased Shiny Brites develop scratches, group them together! Create displays in decorative bins and baskets, and position the ornaments so that the scratches are hidden. You can still create a beautiful display and achieve a festive vintage feel using these midcentury items in your home.
For more home tours, repurposing tips and easy and fun holiday DIYs, check out our sister magazine’s annual special, Vintage Holiday. We’ll help you bring a midcentury appeal to your Christmas home in no time.