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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

H is for Heirloom

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Christmas heirlooms are among families' most treasured Christmas traditions. And, dated annual Christmas ornaments are at the top of the list of Christmas heirlooms. Whether ornaments were handmade by grade school children or inherited from grandparents, Christmas is not the same without them.

is for Heirloom. 

Collectible dated annual ornaments often begin as gifts for special occasions. First Christmas for newlyweds, first home, or first Christmas for baby are among the top gifted Christmas ornaments with dates. 

Decorating a tree with ornaments began in Germany in the 1600s. By the mid-1800s, German artisans developed techniques to hand blow glass molds to create glass ornaments. 

Wallace Annual Silver Sleigh Bells

Established in 1835, Wallace Silversmiths is a preeminent New England silversmith company known for quality. In 1971 the company began offering an annual silver plated Christmas Sleigh Bell. People have been collecting the annual bells for themselves and their children ever since, and have created an heirloom tradition for their families. The bell shown is the 1995 design that commemorated the 25th anniversary of the collection by reproducing the design from the first bell in the series. 

Haven't inherited heirloom Wallace sleigh bells, but would love to start a collection? Then Ebay, Etsy, and estate sales are good sources for finding vintage Wallace silver plated sleigh bells.  The older the bell, the higher the price usually. 

Collectors often begin with the years of their wedding, of their birthdates, or of the birthdates of their children. Then fill in their collection when they find bells from other years. This bell is dated the year of my wedding, and I found it on Ebay. 

Wallace stamps the bottom of each of their bells with their copyrighted trademark. Sometimes badly tarnished bells show up in garage sales and are overlooked by shoppers unfamiliar with the Wallace bells. The watermark on the bottom will confirm the bell is a Wallace bell, and a good cleaning with silver polish will return a sparkling shine to the bell. 

Not only are the bells beautiful on Christmas trees, they also are gorgeous in Christmas centerpieces on dining tables where they are close enough for diners to enjoy their intricate designs.  

Bells added to an indoor greenery swag is another beautiful way to decorate with the heirloom silver bells. 

Wallace Silversmiths added two more versions of the annual sleigh bells in the same designs as the yearly silver plated version. Gold plated bells were introduced in 1990, and sterling silver bells were first offered in 1995.

This is the 52nd anniversary of the original silver plated Wallace Christmas Sleigh Bells. Not only are the bells beautiful to see, they are also beautiful to hear with a melodious ring.

Heirlooms come in many varieties. 

Heirloom ornaments may be made by school children or by artistic adult family members who add to the collection each year. Heirlooms may be "shiny brights" from the 1950s discovered in thrift shops. Or, heirlooms may be an assorted collection gathered over a lifetime celebrating Christmas together. 

May your Christmas be filled with heirloom ornaments that remind you of the love of your family.