A few decades back, when I was a little girl growing up in the ’70s, I remember seeing women wearing their sparkly Christmas tree pins to dress up their outfit during the holidays. Being drawn to sparkle even at a young age, I had longed for one of my very own.
One of my most exciting moments in life was when I was given one of those beautiful “grown-up” Christmas tree pins at a party I attended when I was 10 years old. I truly thought I was the luckiest girl alive! I have no idea what became of that well-worn pin, but these tree pins are considered a real treasure to collectors all over the world.
Accessorizing for Christmas
Decorative jewelry worn around the Christmas holiday has been fashionable since Victorian times during the mid to late-1800s. Before WWII, Christmas corsages were the tradition. They were made from materials such as plastic, felt, foil, ribbons, sequins, paper, and wire. These corsages were very fragile and unfortunately, would usually only last for one season.
The Christmas corsage was gradually replaced with more durable costume jewelry, such as the Christmas tree pin, which first appeared in the 1930s. It was made out of felt and other materials that were available during that time. These handmade versions were patterned after designs that appeared in magazines. The simple pin backs were often just a sewn-on safety pin.
By the 1940s, Christmas tree pins became the most popular piece of jewelry to wear during the holidays in the U.S. and around the world. Many of the designers of these pins had emigrated from Europe following the Great Depression and were skilled in using precious stones and metals. However, in order to meet customer demand during World War II, costume jewelry had to be mass-produced. But the quality of the designs was still superior.
During the 1950s, several costume jewelry designers began manufacturing Christmas-themed jewelry. Those who were more well-known included Weiss, Trifari, Hollycraft, Corocraft, Eisenberg, and Miriam Haskell.
One of the most recognized designers of Christmas tree pins was Stanley Hagler. He started out as a business advisor to Miriam Haskell. During the late 1950s, he started up his own jewelry company. Hagler used intricate beading designs along with filigree hardware. His pieces were wired, by hand, and the stones and crystals were prong-set rather than glued.
This is one of Hagler’s beautifully beaded Christmas tree pins:
Christmas Tree Pin Styles
Die-cast pins were first produced in the 1950s like this one I found which was made with enamel:
Throughout the 1960s, gilt metal was used on the surface of the pins to give them the look of gold. Here is a 1960s gold Christmas tree pin with multi-colored rhinestones:
If you already collect them or would like to start collecting, many of these vintage Christmas tree pins can still easily be found. Avon is not highly collectible yet, so you can usually find them with a lower price tag. Expect to pay anywhere from 15 dollars up to several hundred, depending on a variety of factors that determine their value. These factors include the pin’s condition, quality, rarity if it is signed or made by a prominent jewelry designer, and the detail and intricacy of the design.
As you are out celebrating the holidays with friends and family this season, bring back the tradition of times past by pinning a sparkly, vintage Christmas tree onto your little black dress.
*Photos of Hagler Christmas tree pin courtesy of RC Larner.
Kimberly Moore is a vintage costume jewelry expert, blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com.
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