It’s well known among collectors of antique Christmas ornaments that the earliest ornaments came from Germany as early as the mid 1800’s. The concept of a decorated tree in your home for the Christmas holiday was brought to England from their German relatives by King George I and Prince Albert who married Queen Victoria. And we all know how the Victorians were about anything that the queen had, they must also and so the Christmas tree as we know it came into fashion during the late 1800’s. Some of the most lovely ornaments were those embellished by Victorian women in their homes at a time when women rarely worked outside the home.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe the preeminent architect of the 20th century is credited with saying, “Less is more” when referring to decoration on a building. He wanted to let the building design and the materials speak for itself. He would never have gotten along with the average Victorian when decorating their homes. Victorians believed if a little is good, more is even better. They exemplified the “more is so much better” idea in almost every aspect of their lives. They loved to embellish everything; their homes, their clothing and their holiday decorations. Which leads to one of my favorite Christmas ornaments, wire wrapped and tinsel embellished glass ornaments.
Sadly, I do not have very many in my collection but the ones I have, I love. It is difficult to get an accurate photo of these embellished wire wrapped ornaments as they really are best in candle light with the flickering flame reflecting and refracting the light, bouncing it back into the room with a gently shimmering glow.
The bullion wire used for wrapping was a sort of spiral spun wire in silver or gold tones. The tinsel and paper embellishments were a staple in most Victorian homes as were other millinery flowers and leaves, small glass beads, small paper scrap pieces printed with holiday scenes to cut out and use in addition to pressed foil on thin cardboard adornments. Remember, these Victorian era ladies needed to find ways to entertain themselves because Victorian ladies did not under any circumstances allow anyone to think they did any type of manual labor. So they needed entertainments like china painting, card making, scrap book keeping and embellished Christmas ornaments to help pass the time.
One of my favorites is this clear oval ornament with a small ceramic angel standing inside on a gold foil cardboard seal for the bottom. Then the entire ornament is wrapped in gold-tone bullion wire accented every so often with a tiny gold glass bead to give it more shimmer.
Several of my wire wrapped ornament are rather plain. Beginning with a simple round, oval or teardrop silvered glass bauble, they were wrapped somewhat higgledy piggledy all over and voila! They’re done and so lovely.
I love this white glitter painted ornament with two tone wire wrapping in large and small wire. Then whoever made it attached small glass beads to each side. The final embellishment is the bottle-brush type finial hanging from the bottom of the ovoid shape. It has a futuristic sci-fi look to me but I got it in the early 1970’s from an estate of a woman in her 90’s so I believe it to be quite old. The white glitter painted background covering the glass ornament is quite unique. I’ve not found another like it in 40+ years of looking.
The final wire wrapped ornament I’d like to share is a matte pearlized white glass ornament with gold-tone and silver-tone wire wrapping from top to bottom around the ornament covering almost the entire surface. In four places equally distanced around the center of the ornament is a wreath of blue bullion wire with a center silver glass bead. The ornament is only about 2 inches diameter and yet there is a tremendous amount of work that went into making it so beautiful.
If you surf around eBay or Pinterest, you can find many, many examples of even more ornately embellished figural ornaments. Who knows you may even have some in your collection.
A question from a loyal reader made me realize bullion wire may not be familiar to everyone so I thought I should include a photo I found on the internet of bullion wire. Bullion wire is used in crafting and the floral industry to accent items, sew glitzy parts and make tassels, epaulets and other shiny garment and hat pieces. It is best described as a tiny spring like piece made of extremely thin wire and can be found stretched out and wound on a spool or cut into lengths and sold in a hank or gross(144) of pieces.
About 15 years ago, I came across some at a craft store in their bruised and reduced bin. I bout all they had and have used it for years on my tree as icicles. Sadly some of my bullion wire is getting stretched out beyond being able to hang on my tree any longer and I am considering making my own wire wrapped ornaments but I think that may have to be another post.