From Shiny Brites to Sweet Minis, These Are the Best Christmas Ornaments
Plus the proper, non-chaotic way to store them.
Published Nov 16, 2021 1:29 AM
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 retro: West Elm
- Best mini: Terrain
- Best modern: Crate & Barrel
- Best statement making: Anthropologie
- Best shatter-resistant: Target
- Best pop culture: Furbish
- Best bulk: Christmas Central
- Best food: Food52
Best Porcelain: Jonathan Adler
Material: Glossy or matte porcelain | How it hangs: Satin ribbon | Breakability: Fragile
Why we chose it: These are 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 luxe porcelain and extravagant details like pure gold accents, as in the trio of Ballet Russes figures. A circus-themed ornament collection includes two tightrope walkers and a trio of animals, and the Menagerie ornaments are unique, too, featuring a French bulldog, a hippo, and a kangaroo, among other animals.
What we like:
- They’re collectible, but you can buy individually
- Beautiful forms
- Porcelain is not shatterproof
Best Monochromatic: Iittala
Material: Glass | How it hangs: Ribbon | Breakability: Fragile
Why we chose it: It’s an elevated option in gradients of the season’s most popular color: red.
Perfect for a minimalist Christmas tree, this set 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 is a seasonal standout. 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 are also available in a larger size.
What we like:
- Designed by Finnish glass legend Oiva Toikka
- Comes in two sizes
- Isn’t available in other colors
Best Old-Fashioned: John Derian
Material: Glass, often handblown | How it hangs: Hook (not included) | Breakability: Fragile
Why we chose it: Look no further than John Derian’s extensive collection of glass-blown 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. There’s a glass ornament in the shape of tiny red mushrooms, which are a symbol of Christmas in Germany because they grow at the base of pine trees and are considered lucky. Other forest finds include an adorable owl. Since the offerings are pricey, this is a place to source one extra-special ornament each year, building a collection over time.
What we like:
- So many choices means something for everyone
- 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 ornaments are final sale
Best Felt: Craftspring
Material: Merino wool | How it hangs: String | Breakability: Low
Why we chose it: A kid-friendly, adult-approved ornament source that focuses on sustainability.
The holidays usher in a season of indulgence—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.
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
Best Retro: West Elm
Material: Glass | How it hangs: Hook | Breakability: Fragile
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 can find originals on your grandparents’ tree and in antiques shops—or check out West Elm’s collection, created in collaboration with Shiny Brite. Grab a set of 20 colored glass balls for an instant mid-century–style tree, and add in these traditional Shiny Brite forms for good measure.
What we like:
- Handblown, hand-painted glass
- Classic retro look
- It’s a very specific style, so it may not be for everyone
Best Mini: Terrain
Material: Glass | How it hangs: Hook or string | Breakability: Fragile
Why we chose it: Terrain offers sets of mini ornaments that’ll get your collection started in one click, whether you’re filling in a full-size tree or decorating a tabletop one with scale-appropriate orbs.
“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.” This set of 100 tiny orbs is a great way to fill out a regular-size tree. If you’re going smaller with a tabletop or Charlie Brown–esque Christmas tree, mini ornaments won’t weigh down the branches and will look appropriate, size-wise. This set is relatively well priced and available in a variety of pretty hues beyond the standard red and green; it’s a great starting point for someone decorating a first Christmas tree.
What we like:
- A well-thought-out color scheme
- Perfect for small trees
- Only available in sets of 100
Best Modern: Crate & Barrel
Material: Mostly wood, glass, and ceramic | How it hangs: String or hook | Breakability: Varies based on material
Why we chose it: A wide variety of ornaments that balance whimsy with simplicity.
This year Crate & Barrel promised a “merry and modern way to trim the tree,” and it delivered, with a collection heavy on wood and ceramics. A set of six simple ceramic trees in muted greens and white would look chic on any tree. Or for a mixed-material ornament, check out these wood balls dipped in paint and decorated with hanging tassels.
What we like:
- A good selection of wood and ceramic ornaments
- Creative use of materials
- Some ornaments are available only as a part of larger sets
Best Statement Making: Anthropologie
Material: Glass | How it hangs: Hook or string | Breakability: High
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 ornament sizes and shapes. Anthropolgie is a fantastic source for colorful, statement-making ornaments in a variety of materials and styles. It also does whimsicality well, as in its collaboration with French artist Nathalie Lété. At 8.5 inches long, these rainbow finials are a great way to mix in verticality, and they’d work well hung with these neon orbs, too.
What we like:
- Bright colors
- Unique shapes
- Some ornaments are on back order
Best Shatter-Resistant: Target
Material: Plastic | How it hangs: Hook or string | Breakability: Low
Why we chose it: Ideal for households with young kids or rambunctious pets.
With tiny hands hanging ornaments or pets that treat the tree as a toy, glass ornaments often end up shattered in the trash instead of shining on the tree. Enter Target’s shatter-resistant baubles in a number of colorways. With sets that include shiny, matte, and glittery balls, your tree won’t feel one-note. If you like the look of vintage glass ornaments but know they’d easily break in your home, this trio of shatter-resistant pink and white orbs is perfect.
What we like:
- Shatter-resistant means low stress
- An affordable way to fill out your tree
- Lacks the texture of glass
Best Pop Culture: Furbish
Material: Glass | How it hangs: Hook or ribbon | Breakability: Breakable
Why we chose it: Here’s 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 Doritos 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, the 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?
What we like:
- Perfect for Secret Santa
- Adds a bit of humor to your holiday decor
- Some sell out quickly
Best Bulk: Christmas Central
Material: Plastic | How it hangs: Hook or string (included) | Breakability: Low
Why we chose it: This is a cheap way to fill out your tree and create cohesion.
Christmas Central is a great source for 60-count ornament packs, available as shiny, matte, or mixed sets. Buying in bulk doesn’t mean giving up unique colors either: There are upgraded versions of holiday hues, like champagne gold, a nice alternative to brighter gold, plus unusual colorways like celadon and burnt orange, which would look especially festive hung on the tree alongside old-fashioned dried orange slices.
What we like:
- Great price point
- Classic color options and unique alternatives
- Some might find a few hues tacky
Best Food: Food52
Material: Most are made of glass | How it hangs: String | Breakability: Fragile
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 Twelve Days of Christmas”, but today dozens of fruits, vegetables, and snacks have been rendered in glittery glass. 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 kale, classic with pears, or pick a friend’s favorite sweet for a personal gift.
What we like:
- Beautifully rendered and vintage inspired
- Perfect for your favorite foodie
- Some items, like the bagel, can only be purchased as part of a larger set
How We Chose These Products
These products were sourced by Domino’s market editor, who looked for quality materials and a range of price points, as well as a mix of heritage brands, small businesses, and industry stalwarts that offer great ornaments 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 ornaments that come in larger sets often are 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
Design: 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.
Material: 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.
Color: “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.
Attachment: “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.
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