How a bit of Christmas Past came back to the Present.

Gustav Meyer came to New York to work as a confectioner in 1864.  But he was also an inventor.  His most notable creations were customized molds to manufacture logoed sugar wafers for the hotel trade…and the bubble gum whistle!

Always a man of many ideas, he held patents for things as varied as cake decorating machines, edible ice cream scoops and radiator humidifiers.

In 1880, Gustav began the production of “Tin Brilliant Ornaments” for Christmas trees.  Using his knowledge of mold making for confections, he created an intricately-carved brass mold embedded with real faceted gem stones.  The tin cast ornaments had the concave impressions of the gemstones which served to catch and reflect ambient light.  The “gems” were decorated with brightly colored paint that made them look like actual jewels.

Over the next decades, the ornaments became a world-wide sensation. Their unique configuration could make a Christmas tree twinkle in a way that had never been seen before.

But in the early 20th century, electric Christmas tree lights were developed and the public had a new way of making their tree sparkle.  The era of the Tin Brilliant Ornament had passed.

Gustav suffered a stroke in 1917 and died the following year.  His family donated most of his metal equipment to wartime scrap drives.

The ornaments were “lost” for decades.


So how did they come to be the signature ornament for Beekman 1802 this year?


Sometime in the 1970s, Bill and Janet Rigsby who live just down the way from us in Cooperstown, NY,  were at an antique shop in Staten Island, NY.  In the bottom drawer of an old wooden desk, they found a box with over 40 ornament molds.

In 1987, Bill and Janet used the molds to make the ornaments once again.  At the time, Gustav’s daughters were still alive and living on Staten Island.  The Rigby’s located the youngest daughter, Emilie.  Even though she was now blind, when they placed the new ornament in her hand she exclaimed, “Brillanten! It’s Poppa’s brillanten.”


See how each of the Beekman 1802 Signature Christmas Ornament for 2014 is made:




This holiday season, Bill and Janet created two ornaments exclusively for Beekman 1802 using the original molds created by Gustav Meyer.  You can see them by clicking here





by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

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I have the round ornament gracing my tree. It is truly beautiful. I am going to print this description of how it is made and store it with my ornament, so when I’m gone, whoever goes through my things will realize its true value.

ruby t

These ornaments are very lovely and I enjoyed the story of reviving the art. Lucky that those molds were found and someone could use them.