From Shiny Brites to Designer Collaborations, These Are the Best Christmas Ornaments
Plus the proper, nonchaotic way to store them.
Updated Nov 7, 2022 10:35 AM
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Do you deck the halls first or head straight for the tree? If you answered the latter, you’re in good company. “I’ve come to realize that a Christmas tree is basically a giant scrapbook where we can document our lives,” says Emily Henderson, stylist and New York Times best-selling author. In addition to bringing back memories of years past, Christmas ornaments can serve as a thematic or color-based jumping-off point for decorating the whole room.
Whether you want a picture-perfect tree or prefer a more eclectic look, take a look at our go-to sources for the very best ornaments. There’s something festive and design-forward for everyone, from those beginning their own collection to the holiday fanatic looking for something special to add to their tree.
- Best porcelain: Jonathan Adler
- Best monochromatic: Iittala
- Best old-fashioned: John Derian
- Best felt: Craftspring
- Best shiny brites: West Elm
- Best designer collaborations: Crate & Barrel
- Best statement making: Anthropologie
- Best shatter-resistant: Target
- Best pop culture: Furbish
- Best food: Food52
Best Porcelain: Jonathan Adler
Material: Glossy or matte porcelain | How it hangs: Satin ribbon | Breakability: Fragile
What we like:
- They’re collectible, but you can buy individually
- Beautiful forms
- Porcelain is not shatterproof
Why we chose it: Fun collectibles from a potter and designer we adore.
Jonathan Adler’s designs are one part cheeky, one part chic, and his ornaments are no exception. He mixes simple shapes with fancy porcelain, and though we’re used to the combination of extravagant details like pure gold accents and glitter (case in point: the Apollo or reversible Le Wink set), the bulk are pretty minimalist, particularly the Menagerie animal assortment. If you’ve been collecting Adler pieces for a while, go ahead and add a few all-white figurines to your tree, no matter the color scheme.
Best Monochromatic: Iittala
Material: Glass | How it hangs: Ribbon | Breakability: Fragile
What we like:
- Designed by Finnish glass legend Oiva Toikka
- Comes in 2 sizes
- Limited colors
Why we chose it: Elevated option in gradients of the season’s most popular colors: red and green.
Perfect for a minimalist Christmas tree, these sets comes from Iittala, a Finnish glassware company that dates back to 1881. The brand is best known for the Aalto vase, but this ornament quintet and staple apples are seasonal standouts. Each glass sphere is simple and streamlined, with a small curve at the top that’s tied to a ribbon. The baubles will reflect Christmas lights beautifully, and the balls are also available in a larger size.
Best Old-Fashioned: John Derian
Material: Glass, often handblown | How it hangs: Hook (not included) | Breakability: Fragile
What we like:
- Many are handblown
- Numerous themes to draw from, like woodland creatures and outer space
- It’s a bit hard to sort through such a large volume of ornaments online
- All sales are final
Why we chose it: Look no further than John Derian’s extensive collection of glass ornaments for a traditional tree.
John Derian carries an extensive collection of ornaments made the old-fashioned way—including many that are handblown in Poland. This is a place to source one extra-special ornament each year, and you can’t go wrong with vintage-inspired classics like clip-on candles, snowy scenes, and wreaths. Last year we loved all the tiny red mushrooms—they’re a symbol of Christmas in Germany, since they grow at the base of pine trees and are considered lucky—but this year we’re into the classic signifiers of the season, like sleds, trees, and sparkling lanterns. (We do still love the fungi, which are whimsical in color and abstract in shape.) There’s also an extensive assortment of food, animals, and other funky forms.
Best Felt: Craftspring
Material: Merino wool | How it hangs: String | Breakability: Low
What we like:
- Made of sustainably harvested merino wool
- Craftspring is fair-trade certified
- Vulnerable to moths and insects, so you have to be extra careful with off-season storage
Why we chose it: A kid-friendly, adult-approved ornament source that focuses on sustainability.
The holidays usher in a season of splurge—food, festivities, and gifts. But that can also mean excess waste and strain on the environment. These felted ornaments are made from sustainably harvested merino wool, and Craftspring’s fair-trade certification means the artisans who craft these ornaments are properly compensated. We particularly like the company’s selection depicting aboveground and underwater flora and fauna with mesmerizing attention to detail, as in an oyster shell and pearl with beautiful beading. A fishing Santa in a yellow slicker would be a fitting way to commemorate a coastal Christmas.
Best Retro: Shiny-Brites
Material: Glass | How it hangs: Hook | Breakability: Fragile
What we like:
- Handblown, hand-painted glass
- Classic retro look for a modern heirloom
- A very specific style, so it may not be for everyone
Why we chose it: Revitalizing a popular mid-century brand you no longer have to hunt down piece by piece.
Since its popularity peaked around the 1950s, Shiny Brite ornaments have become a symbol of mid-century Christmas decor. You may be able to find originals on your grandparents’ tree and in antiques shops—or check out West Elm’s very own collection, created in collaboration with Shiny Brite. Grab a set of 20 colored glass balls for an instant throwback tree, and add in these traditional Shiny Brite forms for good measure.
Best Designer Collaborations: Crate & Barrel
Material: Mostly wood, glass, and ceramic | How it hangs: String or hook | Breakability: Varies based on material
What we like:
- Creative use of materials
- A wide variety of ornaments that balance whimsy with simplicity
- Some ornaments are available only as a part of larger sets
Why we chose it: Home to some of our favorite designer collabs.
After Crate & Barrel promised (and delivered) a “merry and modern way to trim the tree” last year, this holiday we’re obsessed with the designer collaborations, including Lucia Eames’s creations of sunbursts and A Midsummer Night’s Dream characters pulled from her archives. For more glam, skip the porcelain and scoop up Leanne Ford’s signature disco balls in silver, pink, and rosy red. The set offers various sizes for dimension, and the mirrored exteriors are sure to reflect every string light and flickering flame. One reviewer writes they currently have theirs sitting in a bowl until they put up the tree: “They add such an element of fun and sparkle to any space.”
Best Statement Making: Anthropologie
Material: Glass | How it hangs: Hook or string | Breakability: High
What we like:
- Bright colors
- Unique shapes
- Some ornaments are on back order
Why we chose it: A no-fail source for ornaments you’ll always notice on the tree.
If you look at trees decorated by the pros, you’ll notice they use a variety of sizes and shapes. Anthropologie is a fantastic source for colorful, statement-making ornaments in a variety of materials and styles, and there’s certainly a little bit of everything to be explored here. At 5.5 inches long, adding the above braided rainbow icicles is a great way to mix in verticality, and they’d hang up sweetly next to metallic baubles and sweet minis, too. The brand does whimsy well, as its collaboration with French artist Nathalie Lété proves. And there are even miniature versions of furniture favorites like the Fern storage cabinet and Grecian bust planter.
Best Shatter Resistant: Target
Material: Plastic | How it hangs: Hook or string | Breakability: Low
What we like:
- Shatter-resistant means low stress
- An affordable way to fill out your tree
- Lacks the texture of glass
Why we chose it: Ideal for households with young kids or rambunctious pets.
While we’re eagerly waiting for Studio McGee’s velvet ornaments to come back in stock at Target, the retailer is still our go-to for shatter-resistant baubles. If you have tiny hands helping you dress up the tree this year or pets that treat ornaments like toys, these shiny, matte, and glittery balls are just the ticket. While they look like delicate glass, they’re actually made of durable plastic. And while we love the classic looks, there’s also woodland-, dinosaur- and space-themed sets for an even more kid-friendly ensemble.
Best Pop Culture: Furbish
Material: Glass | How it hangs: Hook or ribbon | Breakability: Breakable
What we like:
- Perfect for Secret Santa
- Adds a bit of humor to your holiday decor
- Some sell out quickly
Why we chose it: A fun mix of pop-culture icons and 21st-century ephemera, rendered in traditional glass.
There’s a delightful contrast in a traditional glass ornament depicting a bag of Goldfish, this year’s It fashion statement, or a literal dumpster fire. “In the same vein of sharing a meme with someone that makes you think of them, these ornaments highlight all of our particular quirks and qualities,” says Jamie Meares, founder of Furbish. “A little irreverent humor on the tree beside a beautiful keepsake lets you celebrate that seasonal nostalgia—plus it adds some levity to keep things light and fun.” Who says Post Malone doesn’t belong next to a candy cane? (Though we suspect after Midnights dropped last month, that Taylor Swift is primed to be this year’s hottest item).
Best Food: Food52
Material: Most are made of glass | How it hangs: String | Breakability: Fragile
What we like:
- Beautifully rendered and vintage inspired
- Perfect for your favorite food lover
- Some items, like the bagel, can only be purchased as part of a larger set
Why we chose it: Popcorn and cranberries have always gone on the tree, so why not anchovies and bagels?
The pear snagged a spot as a Christmas icon thanks to the 18th-century hit “The 12 Days of Christmas”, but today dozens of fruits, vegetables, and snacks have been rendered in glittery glass. While nearly every brand on our list offers some food item or another, Food52 carries a standout collection from maker Cody Foster, who started his crafting business in Valentine, Nebraska, when he was in high school. Go healthy with stalks of asparagus or pick out a friend’s favorite sweet for a personal gift.
We Also Like
While the above are certainly go-to resources for the best Christmas ornaments, they aren’t the only makers behind cool, kitschy, modern, and traditional styles. This year’s highlights include exclusive Sophie Lou Jacobsen borosilicate glass ornaments; House & Parties’s quirky, jokelike creations; Urban Outfitters’s classic kitschy offerings, from a sparkly can of Diet Coke to playful felt caricatures; and a seriously fancy school of fish, inspired by the mythical city of Atlantis, from Luke Edward Hall’s second collaboration with Svenskt Tenn.
How We Chose These Products
When looking to update our list of the best Christmas ornaments for 2022, we prioritized quality materials and a range of price points, as well as a mix of heritage brands, small businesses, and industry stalwarts that offer great collections year after year. And because there are so many ways to decorate a tree, we opted for a number of different ornament styles.
The Highs and Lows of Christmas Ornament Prices
- Mass-produced ornaments tend to be cheaper than handmade options, and those that come in larger sets are often a bit more affordable than their individual counterparts.
- Handblown glass and hand-painting means more meticulous work and a higher price tag, and fair-trade ornaments cost more because the artisans making them are paid a living wage. High-quality materials like porcelain will also bump up the price.
- The great thing about ornaments is that you can build a collection over time or supplement pricey picks with affordable DIY options—think: popcorn garlands and dried orange slices threaded with ribbon.
Our Shopping Checklist
Some people love a traditional tree with a limited color palette, and others prefer to mix and match different styles and designs. Plus some ornaments feel very period-based thanks to old-fashioned glass, a mid-century color palette, or a contemporary subject (we’re looking at you, avocado toast ornament). “I don’t think trees necessarily need to look cohesive,” says Meares. “If you buy what you love, the tree will find its own story to tell.” Decorating the tree is meant to be fun, not stressful, so see what type of ornaments you gravitate toward and build a collection based on the pieces you want to see on your tree year after year.
As for how many or how filled, that’s also entirely left up to personal preference. “I like a tree with lots of holes,” says Matthew Monroe Bees, an interior designer based in Alabama and South Carolina (who also has a storage unit filled with ornaments). “The longer ornaments need room to hang, and I fill every nook and cranny with the smaller ones.”
Ornaments are available in everything from glass and clay to wood and wool. “The easiest way to make any look cohesive is a similar color palette and similar materials,” says Henderson. While she prefers an eclectic mix on her tree, if you want a more streamlined design, add a matching set of ornaments or balance colorful and detailed designs with those in more muted materials, like wood or white clay. If your existing collection feels too varied, try using the same type of ribbon on all your ornaments to tie them together visually.
“You can look at the ornaments you absolutely want to use and pull a color palette from those,” says Henderson. That could mean classic (red, white, green), metallics and wood tones, winter whites (with a little blue thrown in), or retro colors à la the Shiny Brite color scheme. Maybe you want to go with all-white ornaments in every material you can find or use repeating red balls to fill in a sparsely decorated tree.
“I wire my ornaments with floral wire; I never use ornament hooks,” says Bees, who takes a more-is-more approach to the tree. “I can really secure them and pile them on!” Meares is a fan of ribbon. If ornament hooks work for you, get a set of one color so they match. Make sure that heavy ornaments are secured on strong branches. If an ornament is weighing down a branch more than a few inches, it’s probably too heavy.
Q: What can I give my design-obsessed friend to add to her first Christmas tree?
This Bauhaus-era Christmas ornament set is a great way to add a dose of design history to any tree, and it comes in a cute box perfect for gifting. Originally designed by Johannes Gabriel, an architect and teacher at the Bauhaus, the collection of 12 wood ornaments was later purchased at auction. What once hung exclusively on the Gabriel family tree is now available and reproduced at the same scale and in the same colors as the originals.
Q: What’s the best way to non-chaotically store Christmas ornaments?
“Each of my ornaments is wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and placed in large plastic storage bins,” says Bees, who collects vintage glass ornaments. Williams Sonoma stocks a designated ornament storage box, available in a size that holds 48 ornaments and a larger one that accommodates 120. For an under-the-bed option, try this one from Honey-Can-Do. When it comes to felted ornaments, Craftspring recommends storing them in a sealed plastic bag with a lavender sachet to prevent moths from creating holes in the wool.
Q: How can I personalize a Christmas ornament without it leaning too cheesy?
“Picture-frame ornaments are a favorite in my household,” says Henderson. “What’s sweeter than little kids and family photos on a tree?” Furbish carries a number of frame ornaments, and Meares has suggestions for things to frame beyond baby pics: “You can frame a matchbook from a favorite spot, a four-leaf clover, or any little keepsake that warrants elevating,” she says. Framebridge sells a tiny wood-frame ornament with easy photo uploading and delivery options.
Etsy is a great source for personalizing ornaments, too; Henderson loves finding handmade and customizable ones there. Michelle Renee Co. offers acrylic ornaments with scripted names, perfect for a pet or as a gift for newly married couples. Anna Brown Creative makes charming clay stars that are customizable with print or cursive names.
Q: I’m going to try a new look for my tree this year. Can I recycle Christmas ornaments?
Unfortunately, most glass and plastic Christmas ornaments can’t be recycled. When disposing of glass ornaments, be sure to wrap them in old newspaper or something similar to prevent accidentally cutting a sanitation worker. One great way to reuse ornaments you no longer want to hang on the tree is to tie them onto Christmas presents as a decorative flourish.
The Last Word
There’s nothing quite like pulling out your treasured ornaments, adding in new finds, and decorating the tree each year. Whether you’re a Christmas tree minimalist or maximalist, a trendsetter or a traditionalist, in search of a singular ornament to commemorate the year or a set to fill out the tree, our go-to sources offer something for everyone.