Private Stash: Glass Christmas Tree Toppers

Out of my many vintage glass ornaments, some of my favorites are the pieces few get to see—my collection of blown glass tree toppers.

Many people are either in the star camp or the angel camp when it comes to tree toppers, but personally I prefer the classic look of a traditional glass topper. Most of my toppers date from the 1930s through the 1960s and were handmade in West Germany by none other than Shiny Brite. They range in height from about 4 to 12 inches. For collectors, the intricacy of the design and the size have the greatest impact on desirability and value. Toppers with deeply detailed recessed designs—especially those with two or three tiers—are the most sought after and most difficult to find as their size limits their strength and few have survived the years intact.

When using vintage glass toppers, it’s important to be very careful. The neck tubes of older toppers tend to be very slender and very delicate and will not fit on the bushy branches of many natural and artificial trees. Trying to force a topper onto to a thick branch will almost surely result in disaster. When using with artificial trees it’s important to not push the topper on too far as the steel branches can go clear through to the top and shatter the fragile point. Trees which near the ceiling are another hazard. The point of the topper is the most vulnerable and even a slight collision with the ceiling can cause it to shatter. For artificial trees I often bend down the top branch to shorten the tree. If the tree branches are too fat for the topper, I use a narrower greenery stem from a craft store and secure it to the tree top with floral wire.

My only dilemma is choosing which one to use each year. This year (and nearly every year) its the two-tiered topper.

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