Ah Shiny Brite ornaments! We love you! I don’t know about you, but when I’m searching through a box of vintage and antique Christmas decorations, when I come across a Shiny Brite it makes my heart go pitty-pat!
In 1937, Max Eckardt established Shiny Brite. He had been importing and selling German ornaments for many years but he saw the writing on the wall with the upcoming war. Eckardt partnered with the American Corning Glass Company. They adapted their process for making light bulbs to mass producing clear glass ornaments, which were then shipped to Eckardt’s factories to be decorated by hand. Prior to this time most Christmas ornaments were indeed imported from Germany. The fact that Shiny Brite ornaments were an American-made product was stressed as a selling point during World War II, even featuring Uncle Sam on the box! In the first year they sold 250,000 ornaments!
The accurate dating of Shiny Brites is often helped by studying the hook. The first Shiny Brite ornaments had the traditional metal cap and loop. Production during WWII necessitated the replacement of the metal cap with a cardboard tab. These cardboard hangers firmly place the date of manufacture of the ornament to the early 1940s. Later during WWII they came with paper caps with a loop of string. Also during the war there was no metallic paint used as decoration. Ornaments dating to this time have a non-silvered surface.
Following the war, Shiny Brite introduced a line of ornaments with a metal hook that provided the user with two lengths of hanger. The long hook traveled through the center of the ornament and exited the bottom, where it attached to the bottom. This provided the “short” hanger. Unlatched from the bottom, the entire length of the hook was available, allowing the ornament to dangle at a greater distance from the tree limb to which it was attached. This arrangement was designed to allow the ornament to fill sparsely limbed areas of a natural tree. This feature was discontinued in 1960 when aluminum trees became popular.
In the early 1960s, the increased popularity of artificial trees seemed to coincide with the desire for unbreakable plastic ornaments to decorate them with. The Shiny Brite company closed its doors in 1962.
Today Shiny Brites are very popular with collectors who not only decorate their trees but they make gorgeous wreaths with them. Some even take old damaged Shiny Brite boxes and make charming little Christmastime vignettes. How cute is that!
Carol Fenn 7-2017