ABC alphabet sterling Christmas tree pin

Last article, I presented many of the designer signed holiday arbors that are featured in published guide books, which are prime names to watch out for when collecting and valuing tree pins.  But what about those mysterious branches that are unsigned?  Some of the rarest and most elusive Christmas tree pins can be unsigned beauties, with some of them showing up in the guide books as well.

Diamond Lattic Christmas tree pin

I believe Mary Morrison started the trend in her Christmas jewelry book (2nd edition, 2002), as she highlighted 137 unsigned beauties on pages 91-111.  Of these, I have 24 in my personal collection.

Six years later, Kathy Flood took it a step further with her 2008 publication, “Collecting Christmas Jewelry: Christmas Tree Pins, Volume 1: Unsigned”, focusing exclusively on unsigned holiday beauties in various named categories, such as “Antique plastique, Instant Messaging, Mistletoe & Holly, Rue de Rivolis, Silver Thrills and Blue, Blue Christmas”, among others.  I have 40 of the trees pictured in Flood’s book.

Blue Christmas tree pin

Satin Glass Christmas tree pin

Flood explains that many unsigned trees were in fact created by some of the more noteworthy design houses or individual designers, but were not marked as such because some, like Gem-Craft, created trees for other companies, or simply because including the mark was forgotten, overlooked, or the product went out in a rush, and some carried a paper tag rather than a permanent mark on the pin, like Juliana D’Elizza & Elster pieces.

Candy Cane tree pin

According to Flood, for example, she estimates that a quarter to a third of all Lia trees she’s seen have been unmarked.  Her book now gives credit to many of these unsigned mysteries, such as those designed by Verecchia, Kramer of New York, Mylu, Beatrix, Pell, Marvella, and Trifari.  For other trees, she’s only able to give a hint from whence they came, such as Paris, Czecholovakia, a Washington-state maker for Nordstrom’s, 90% sure that it was the Trifari section counter at a department store, Marshall’s, SteinMart, Value City or lesser known places and designers like the Victorian Village in Kimmswick, Missouri, Latasia, or the Zoppini charms counter.  Still others remain a mystery, and she asks, “Will the designer who made this piece please stand up?”

Another notable category of unsigned trees are “mirror images” or copies of popular signed designs.  Some mimic the designers so well, it’s hard to tell the difference with the exception that they are sans hallmark.  Others are a poor man’s copy, made with lesser materials, refinement, and maybe a little less glitz.  Collecting these faux designer trees is a great way for a new collector to acquire coveted styles at more palatable prices.  For example, the real St. John tree is $250+ when found, but copies valued at $25-40 still capture its “unique design aesthetic”.

Japanned, clear unfoiled navettes tree pin

Austria-style Blue glass cabochon Christmas tree pin

I keep sticky tabs in both Morrsion’s and Flood’s books for those unsigned trees I have been lucky enough to acquire for my own collection.  For the rest, I keep in my somewhat photographic memory (only for vintage jewelry do I have this kind of phenomenal memory!) in store for the hunt, so I can spot them among a forest of trees.

Plique a Jour-style Enamel Christmas tree pin

Still more unsigned beauties in my collection I judge for myself to be book-worthy, standouts because they are so wonderfully unique and well-crafted.  Perhaps my picks will someday grace the pages of a Morrison, Flood or Trowbridge book, or fancifully I dream of writing my own book if and when some publisher decides I have earned the Christmas tree pin guru title.  Until then, I dream of finding book pieces, commit them to memory, and keep my eyes sharply pealed for the next unsung hero of the arbor world.

Watermelon Rivoli Christmas tree pin

Jesus is the Reason for the Season tree pin

Green Snowman Christmas tree pin

Tiny, curvy Christmas tree pin

1962 Christmas tree pin with "Merry Xmas To You" message tag

Dangling crystals tree pin

Strung Crystals Christmas tree pin

"Xmas" message tree

Christmas "branch" with dangling colored crystals

Unsigned Trifari petite teardrop tree pin

Triangle Trifecta red glass tree pin

Unsigned Lia Rivoli tree pin

Santa Tree Man Christmas tree pin

Red & Green Crystals tree