Kugels are the earliest form of glass Christmas
decorations. The predecessors of these beloved Victorian Christmas
ornaments began in an unsilvered form that were hung in windows to
ward off evil spirits or witches, a tradition dating back to the
17th century in England and spreading to the colonies in America in
the 18th century. These early "witch balls" were unsilvered and
sometimes served a dual purpose as fishing floats in maritime areas.
Eventually, in the 1850s when silvered glass came into vogue, these
same witch balls were manufactured with a silver lining making them
reflective. These glass globes were first used as reflection balls
that were hung in windows, from ceilings or placed in gardens on
stakes. The French called these silvered balls Boules Panoramic. The
silvered ceiling and garden decorations soon found a new purpose as
Christmas ornaments, hung both from the ceiling and in smaller
versions, on the tree. The kugel, German for ball or sphere, was
born. Fancy brass embossed caps with a multitude of designs were
added to keep the silvering from oxidizing and to provide a classy
hanging device for each piece. These heavy, durable ornaments have
survived well over one hundred years and are today still enjoyed as
one of the most beautiful and longest lived Christmas decorations.
From a collector's standpoint, it's all about color and shape
combinations. With kugels the color is in the glass, rarely painted
on. A silver kugel which is clear glass with only the silver lining
showing through is the most common. From here to rarest color would
be: gold, yellow-green, cobalt, blue and pinkish red being fairly
plentiful followed by the less common colors which would be the
darker greens like moss and olive, copper/bronze, light blue, then
getting into the rare spectrum of colors of deep red, burgundy,
orange and the coveted amethyst. Amethyst kugels are found in about
Most kugels originated in France and Germany. As mentioned above,
with kugels it's all about knowing the shape/color combinations.
Balls are the most common, but an amethyst colored ball would make
it one of the rarest pieces. Grapes are the next most common shape.
They were blown in many different molded patterns with the rarest
being red and amethyst grapes. Free blown shapes like eggs, pears
and tear drops are more desirable, especially in rarer colors like
red and amethyst. Some eggs and balls were blow in a ribbed design
which are highly sought-after. Rare and hard to find shapes would be
artichokes, berry clusters, pinecones and other fruit shapes that
were mold blown.
The silvered interiors (linings) are starting to break down on many
kugels due to their age. When collecting kugels, try to avoid pieces
where the lining has disintegrated. On rarer pieces collectors will
often look the other way if the lining is in bad shape, but the
reality is that if you try to sell the piece, you may not be able to
get a good price with a bad lining.
Kugels have a luster, weight and aged patina that many old Christmas
ornaments just can't match. They add sparkle and magic to any
collection and will bring joy to you and generations of your family
Caveat emptor: When collecting kugels it is important to realize
that many reproductions are now on the market. These were
manufactured in India within the last 30 years. While the brass
embossed caps are different on the newer pieces, unscrupulous
dealers have been known to switch caps between old and new pieces.
Learn from other collectors before you invest in an expensive kugel.
Many collectors have been stuck with new pieces over the years.
Don't be afraid to collect kugels. You should learn as much as you
can about kugels before you begin investing in them.