The Story Behind Shiny Brite Ornaments
Every one of us has their own special holiday memories, but nothing really captures Christmas from days gone by quite like Shiny Brite ornaments do. One of my favorite memories is decorating the tree with an assortment of these beautiful hand blown glass ornaments with hand painted designs.
Since this time of year we often reminisce of Christmases we used to know, I thought I’d share a brief history of these magical glass ornaments.
Shiny Brite Ornament Collectables: The History
Did you know that hand-blown glass decorated ornaments have been around since the late 16th century? A town in Germany, Lauscha, has been known for its glass-blowing companies and ornament production.
In 1914, businessman Max Eckardt was born in Oberlind, Germany which was just 20 miles away from Lauscha. Eckardt eventually entered the ornament business and opened a factory in Oberlind.
Max Eckardt emigrated to NYC in the late 1920s. Prior to World War II, Eckardt had been importing the hand blown glass ornaments from Germany. But with war on the horizon there would be no way of importing the ornaments and Eckardt would soon be out of business.
With this foresight, Max Eckhardt partnered with Corning Glassware to form Shiny Brite in 1937.
Corning Glassware factories were located in New York and New Jersey, known for manufacturing light bulbs. But Corning Glassware was soon turned into an ornament factory – and what a smart business decision that was. Shiny Brite produced the most popular Christmas tree ornaments in the United States throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
The fact that Shiny Brite ornaments were an American-made product was a huge a selling point during World War II. You could find Shiny Brite ornaments at local department stores such as Woolworths and these popular ornaments retailed at roughly fourty cents per box or two to ten cents each.
At first the ornaments were silver, but eventually, Eckardt produced red, green, gold, pink, and blue ornaments. But during World War II, lacquer paint and silver lining became scarce. As a result, Shiny Brite only produced clear ornaments with thin, pastel stripes, as they didn’t require as much pigment. The metal caps and hooks were also replaced with cardboard and yarn. These features are indicative of the dates to those who collect Shiny Brite ornaments today.
After the war, the metal caps returned and the Shiny Brite ornament was reborn. This time the ornament caps were stamped with the words “Shiny Brite” and “Made in U.S.A.” which was very unique at the time because no one ever produced that type of cap.
The U.S. government sent Max Eckardt to West Germany, hoping to rebuild the ornament industry. There, Eckardt and his son, Harold, set up a factory in Wallenfells, Germany.
Corning continued to produce Shiny Brite ornaments and during the 1950s demand was so high that Eckardt was operating four U.S. factories to supply the ornaments. In 1955, Thor, a washing machine manufacturer, bought Shiny Brite – eventually producing about 75 percent of the ornaments sold throughout the world.
Today, Shiny Brites are a great piece of history and many people collect these vintage ornaments. They hold quite a bit of value – that is if they are found in their original boxes and are in mint condition.