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For many, one of the most enjoyable parts of Christmas is gathering around a fir tree with family to spend a few hours decorating it with baubles, beads and ornaments. But do you know where the idea of the bauble came from?
As with many of our Christmas traditions we have been highly influenced by Queen Victoria and her husband Albert with the publicity of the royal Christmas tree at Windsor Castle. In 1846 they decorated the tree with glass ornaments from Prince Albert's native land of Germany, these soon became popular among the affluent in British society
The first baubles, are said to have originated from the idea of blown egg shells, that could be hung on Christmas trees prior to that the earliest hand blown Christmas tree ornaments from glass were attached to each other to form a chain.
Invented in a small mountain village of Lauscha in Germany notably by Hans Greiner, who first manufactured them in the late 1840s, the first handmade, glass-blown Christmas baubles were produced in the shape of fruits and nuts. The inside of the ornament was made to look silvery, at first with mercury or lead, then later using a special compound of silver nitrate and sugar water
Soon these unique glass Christmas ornaments were being exported to other parts of Europe. By the 1870s, Lauscha was exporting its unique glass ornaments to Britain.
In the 1880s F. W. Woolworth discovered Lauscha's Glaskugeln during a visit to Germany. and imported the German glass ornaments to the U.S. soon after the U.S. started to produce baubles and Christmas tree ornaments of their own.
Although Germany was the top producer of baubles before 1914, America became the top manufacturer after 1945 predominantly because East Germany's government turned most of Lauscha's glassworks into state-owned concerns.