Easily the favorite part of my collection are the blown glass ornaments made in Italy. As opposed to German or Polish ornaments, which are blown into a mold to create their shapes, Italian glass ornaments are blown and shaped by hand. Here is a video from Connie Porcher of Celebrate 365 featuring the ornament creation process.
Italian ornaments are distinctive in that they are different from the traditional ball or small molded object that comprise traditional ornament style. Since they are hand-blown, they often have delicate arms, legs, and handcrafted with accessories such as fabric, ribbon, and lace.
Vintage Italian Ornaments – 1950s
Starting in the mid-fifties, Italian craftsman, in the the areas around Milan and Lake Cuomo, started creating Christmas ornaments quite different from the traditional designs of Germany and Poland. What developed was a unique style that was both light and fanciful. The (YEAR) Winter Olympics helped inspire many skier and ice skater designs.
Vintage Italian Ornaments – 1960s
The 60s saw continued growth, with many fine department stores carrying a selection each holiday season. I remember as a child going to stores such as Lord & Taylor as my mother looked for new additions to her collection. Designs such as clowns and animals continued, with an increasing inspiration from popular culture themes and characters.
1960s Italian Space-Themed Ornaments
Some of the most well-known and most sought-after Italian ornaments are reflective of the space race – that time period from the 50s through the 60s where the United States and the Soviet Union competed to see who could gain superiority in spaceflight. These ornaments, some of them very rare, are always in demand.
Vintage Italian Ornaments – 1970s
The political and economic upheaval of the 1970s led to less availability, a trend that would continue through the 1980s. Culturally, “handmade” and “country” ornaments became popular, and you can see some Italian designs reflecting those currents. The transparency of the glass was featured, popular rag dolls were a often seen theme, as well as toys.
Transition from Vintage to Modern – Italian Ornaments – 1980s and 1990s
The 80s started out similar to the 1970s, this style of ornament was not in vogue, economic concerns where on most families minds. However, with the culture changes that took place starting with the Regan administration, fancy more elaborate holiday decorating started to become back in style. A new generation of collectors, wanted their own ornaments such as they had in their families growing up. Slowly this style ornament starting appearing again in department stores, and Christmas specialty retailers such as Bronner’s were part of the 80s trend in specialty mail order catalog sales made these ornaments accessible to both original and next generation buyers. Thematically, designs tended to echo those of the previous decade.
Ornament Renaissance – the early 2000s
Starting in the late 1980s, Christopher Radko reinvigorated the popularity of glass ornaments. He worked with Polish manufacturers to popularize molded glass ornaments, and in the early 2000s he worked with Italian glass ornament manufacturers to produce Italian Ornaments for his product line. The rise of the Internet allowed Italian glass makers to reach out to a larger audience, and Christmas retailers were able to expand their customer bases online. A large variety of ornaments were created this time, and collectors were eager to purchase them. Compared to the past, designs were more detailed, often included significant use of add-ons such as feathers, glitter, and props.