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What is known as kugels are the ancestors of the later Christmas glass ornaments. Kugel is the German word for sphere or ball. In Germany kugels are usually called Biedermeierkugeln what refers to their time of origin, namely the Biedermeier period (about 1830). At that time German glassmakers started a tradition which lasted almost until to the beginning of World War I.
One way to identify kugels is by their enormous thickness of glass. This may go from one up to five millimeters, that is from 1/25" to 1/5". Before the invention of the Bunsen burner it was technically not possible to produce a thin-walled glass. Therefore kugels are rather heavyweight (a problem for Christmas trees with thin branches). Coloration is not done, as in later times, by painting the glass surface, but by coloring the melted batch in advance. Inside silvering of the kugels produced a brilliant gloss; this was done with lead in the early days, afterwards with a solution of silver nitrate. Unlike later glass ornaments kugels do not have the short pike left from the blowing process. It was cut off. What remained was a small hole. This was covered with a brass cap which was fastened to the ornament by a skillfully twisted wire.
One is inclined to believe that all kugels have got the shape of a ball as their name suggests. But there are, though more seldom, other shapes, too: grapes, eggs, pears, drop, turnips, and bells. In addition the surface has not to be even: items with a ribbed surface are the most sought-after. The color palette is confined to a tight dozen variations: silver, green in different shadows, golden (frequent), light blue, blue, cobalt blue (more rare), rose, rubin, copper (rare), orange, violet (very rare). Tiny kugels have a diameter of about one inch, while the upper limit is more or less open ended: There exist items with a perimeter of more than three feet (best suited for the decoration of the large garden fir tree).
The Ornament → Antique Ornaments → Kugels
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