Glass Christmas decorations – A history of glass-blowing
The custom of decorating Christmas trees is an ancient one. Apples, wafers, gold-plated nuts and confectionery were initially used as decorations; the first blown-glass baubles were created in the mid-19th century. These were relatively large beads that were hung individually or as an interconnected chain.
The passage of time and improvements in manufacturing processes resulted in increasingly diverse shapes and variants, with some 5,000 different designs emerging between 1870 and 1930. Even today, traditional shapes such as birds, angels, pine cones and bells continue to be just as popular as the artistically painted baubles.
In the heart of the Thuringian Forest, not far from the Rennsteig trail, is the glass-blowing town of Lauscha. This idyllic little town was first officially mentioned back in 1597, when approval was granted to establish a village glassworks.
The first glassworks, run by Hans Greiner and Christoph Müller, was the starting point for the glass-industry development in the south-eastern region of the Thuringian Forest. In 1730, following business trips to the Rhine, Johann Adam Greiner brought back initial findings about processing glass at local workshops.
This prompted the local workshops to produce a number of household items, toys and decorative beads. In 1771, Greiner’s son became the first to make lamp-worked beads. It can be assumed that the first Christmas-tree decorations were blown and metallised using the same methods as the glass beads.
In 1870, the unhealthy lead-silvering process was replaced by the Liebig silvering formula using silver nitrate.