An American businessman named Max Eckardt introduced Christmas tree decorations imported from Germany to the US around 1907. The ornaments consisted mostly of small hand-blown glass balls that were colorfully decorated. Late in the 1930s though, it was plain to Eckardt that the oncoming war was going to disrupt his supplies. So he made a business arrangement with the Corning Glass Company that got them started on Christmas ornament production in their light bulb plants. Corning started making the glass ornaments after adapting their own light bulb manufacturing process and proceeded to ship ornaments to both Woolworth’s stores and to Eckardt’s factories where the plain ornaments could be further adorned by hand after being machine-lacquered.
As the wartime shortages increased, making both lacquer and silver difficult to come by, Eckardt started having the ornaments decorated in pastels and bright colors. As a result, Shiny Brite ornaments became very popular because of their uniqueness and soon become a staple of every family’s Christmas trees. By the end of the war, Shiny Brite was the largest manufacturer of Christmas ornaments in the world and the popularity of the ornaments raged on into the 1950s.
Shiny Brite stopped making and selling the glass balls in 1962 because of production disruption and because of the changing business landscape and moved into the production of plastic ornaments, which never proved to be as popular. But now that we are in the 21st century, demand for the original vintage glass ornaments has shot up and you’ll find many “Shiny Brite” ornaments all over Ebay.
One thing to keep in mind though when shopping on eBay for these ornaments is that many sellers and buyers seem to think that “Shiny Brite” refers to a type of ornament rather than a specific brand name. So if you are looking specifically for ornaments made by Max Eckardt’s company, you might want to do a little digging into the auctions.
In addition to the vintage Shiny Brite Christmas ornaments available at antique shops, flea markets and online, Christopher Radko started making reproductions of the ornaments around 2001 and you’ll find those on eBay as well. Generally though you don’t have to worry about the Radko reproductions being passed off as the vintage ornaments because Radko’s ornaments are collectible in their own right. Also, Radko’s ornaments are made in Europe and all of the original Shiny Brite’s were of American manufacture.