Cartonage ornaments or the "Dresdens"
Made of embossed or flat paper between 1880 and 1920 in Dresden, Germany, these ornaments are now some of the most expensive Christmas decorations collected!
The earliest Dresdens were the shaped animals, musical instruments and churches. Sometimes they were coated with silver or gold paper, decorated with a couple of bright colours, usually red and green. Each ornament was made of two pieces of embossed paper glued together with a hanging string between. The embossing gave the ornament a three-dimensional look.
Make-your-own sets with instructions were sold worldwide to create dresdens and paper garlands. These sets came in sheets when you had to press the figures out, cut and glue the sides, not to forget to put the hanging string inbetween.
Dresdens were sold worldwide and many countries ordered the sets by post. These ornaments were affordable, therefore today we come across a lot of them without a string: they were simply cut off the Christmas tree branch with scissors.
Flat paper Christmas decorations were very popular during war times when people could cut out paper shapes out of gift cards, decorated boxes and magazines. Those old home-made paper ornaments are very precious to our museum collection so if you have something like that in your ornaments box, please drop us an email with a photo and as much information you know about the cardboard ornament you have.
This year in Henley-on-Thames we will be showing post-war USSR cartonage ornaments.
Also we have a collection of old copies of Dresdens designs made in plastic! This type of ornaments was so popular and dear to the public it was recreated in a stronger material when the plastic era commenced. Now when you'll spot flat ornaments in stores, you will know! Hope to see many of you at the Christmas Ornaments Fair starting this week!