Send me an E-mail
(Please, no questions
 about value.)

Instructions for sending photographs of your pieces with your question.

What American glass company produced more art glass than any other?

Mount Washington Glass
Boston & Sandwich Glass Co.
The New England Glass Co.
                     To see the answer

The Legend of Bohemian Glass:
A Thousand Years of Glassmaking in the Heart of Europe

by Antonin Langhamer

This book offers a comprehensive overview of the history and traditions of Czech art glass. Divided into 12 chapters, the book details the evolution and development of glassmaking as an art form from the earliest times, when the first glass beads appeared in central Europe, to the present.
More Books


The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany

This video introduces the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, highlighting the expansive range of artistic objects created during his career. It also showcases Tiffany Studios' Favrile glass and provides an historical look at the life of Tiffany.

Click on the title to view.

And look for other videos in selected articles.

Have Bob speak
 on antiques to your group or organization.

More Information

Can't find what
 you're looking for?

Go to our Sitemap

Find out what's coming in the
2022 Fall Edition

of the



Share pages of this ezine with your friends using the buttons provided with each article.

Download our
Decorative Periods and Styles Chart

Read our newest glossary:

Antique Furniture Terminology
 from A to Z

courtesy of AntiquesWorldUK

Videos have
come to

The Antiques

Expand your antiques experience.

Look for videos
in various

Just click on the
arrow to play.

Featured Antique

Bohemian Tango Cordial Set

Ring Those Christmas Bells
by Bob Brooke


Silver bells, jingle bells, sleigh bells, church bells—all help to bring cheer and merriment to holiday celebrations today. But the tradition of ringing bells at the onslaught of winter goes back centuries when people rang bells to ward off evil spirits who they thought would bring bad fortune and disease during the winter months.

Bells, especially church bells, have traditionally been associated with Christmas for a long time. In the Anglican and Catholic churches. The church day starts at sunset, so any service after that is the first service of the day. So a service on Christmas Eve after sunset is traditionally the first service of Christmas day, and churches that have bells often ring them to signal the start of this service.

In some churches in the United Kingdom, it’s traditional that the largest bell in the church is rung four times in the hour before midnight and then at midnight all the bells are rung in celebration. It’s impossible to imagine Christmas without hearing or thinking of the many different bells heard throughout the season.

The History of Bells
Shaped like cups, the earliest bells needed to be struck to make a sound. Perhaps it all began when someone hit a copper cup with a wooden stirrer or spoon. Later, this evolved into purposely made bells with internal clappers.

The Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Sumerians soon discovered that attaching small bells to the harnesses of camels, horses, and mules could alert people walking along the roads of an approaching driver.

It wasn’t until the 4th or 5th century that large cast bells began to appear in Europe. Bronze bells would be hung in church towers and rung to call villagers to services. Traditionally, bells sounded on Christmas Eve to announce the start of the holiday service. Churches also rung bells to announce births, marriages, and funerals.

During the Middle Ages, bells became a popular form of communication. Usually, the largest building in the city was the church and within the church was a bell. This bell would be ringing for a variety of reasons but each reason centered around communication. Bells would be used to communicate the time of day, the arrival of important persons, important announcements, the beginning and end of various events, and they would also be used to announce special celebrations.

Like many of the traditions around Christmas, people first rang bells during pagan winter festivals to protect the people of the city from evil spirits. As Christianity gained influence the use of bells changed from a pagan purpose to a Christian one. The infamous St. Patrick often rang bells to signify the beginning and end of his lessons.

Another smaller form of bell, called a “crotal bell” or more commonly a “jingle bell,” appeared in England in the 13th century. Craftsmen first made these by bending a flower-shaped piece of sheet-metal into a ball containing a solid metal sphere or rod that "jingled" when shook. Other craftsmen made these bells from two small sheets of metal molded into cup shapes which they soldered together.

Soon, knights started attaching crotal bells to their horses. In the 16th and 17th century, gold- and silver-plated bells engraved with coats of arms were presented to soldiers as awards. In the 18th century, wagon drivers in England and Wales started putting jingle bells on horses pulling their vehicles.

In 1510, the first set of carillon bells was introduced by a jester performing outside a Flanders town hall. Founders in the Low Countries continued to develop the carillon bells until they emerged as a full-fledged tuned musical instrument in 1644, the first of which was placed in a Dutch wine tower. Churches quickly adopted carillons to use for their Christmas celebrations.

By the 19th century, these horse bells were no longer just practical. In England, they were associated with Christmas festivities including snowy pleasure rides on decorated sleighs pulled by handsome horses wearing polished bells. At this time, jingle bells became known as "sleigh bells." Another big part of the Victorian Christmas season was caroling, and it became trendy for carolers to carry small cup-shaped handbells with them. Eventually, foundries developed tuned sets of handbells so that carolers, bands, and church musicians could play recognizable songs on the bells without singing.

Around 1810, William Barton launched a company in East Hampton, Connecticut, to produce sleigh bells and handbells in the United States. He generously taught the trade to others so that East Hampton became known as "Belltown" or "Jingletown." It was reported that East Hampton produced about 14,000 bells in 1839, but by 1850, thanks to a new stamping process, the town was churning out nearly 3 million sleigh bells.

Sleigh bells were such iconic Christmas items by the 1850s that they became central to seasonal poems and songs. In 1857, American songwriter James Lord Pierpont wrote "One Horse Open Sleigh," which is more commonly known as "Jingle Bells" and remains one of the most popular Christmas songs in history.

During the Civil War, American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem "Christmas Bells" to express his dismay about the war contrasting with carols of "peace on Earth, goodwill to men." His poem was set to music for the 1872 carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

Bell choirs first imported tuned handbells to the United States around the turn of the 20th century. In 1914, Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych and lyricist Peter J. Wilhousky wrote "Carol of the Bells."

Collecting Christmas Bells
There are so many variations and items containing Christmas bells that it’s difficult to know where to start a collection. In any case, it’s probably better to specialize in one category.

In 20th-century America, bells became an important part of Christmas celebrations and décor. Manufacturers made ornamental bells to hang on Christmas trees and bell-shaped Christmas lights. Porcelain companies like Lladro, Napco, and Lefton produced ceramic figural bells shaped like angels, carolers, or other Christmas symbols.

Other manufacturers produced a variety of bell-shaped tree ornaments. Those made of blown glass were popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Many makers of Christmas ornaments issue porcelain annual bells in December of each year.

Bells have also been a popular motif for Christmas jewelry. Brooches and pendants are particularly collectible.

< Back to Collecting Archives
                                             Next Article >

Antiques Q&A

Antiques and More on

The Antiques Almanac on Facebook

No antiques or collectibles
are sold on this site.

How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

Read an Excerpt

Auction News
Get up to the minute news of antiques auctions around the country and the world.

Also see
The Auction Directory

Antiques News
Read breaking news stories from the world of antiques and collectibles.

Art Exhibitions
Search for art exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world.

Home | About This Site | Antiques | Collectibles | Antique Tips | Book Shop | Antique Trivia | Antique Spotlight | Antiques News  Special Features | Caring for Your Collections | Collecting | Readers Ask | Antiques Glossaries | Resources | Contact
Copyright ©2007-2019 by Bob Brooke Communications
Site design and development by BBC Web Services