In addition to their 1990s series of Twelve Days of Christmas and four 1980s angel ornaments Cybis also produced several holiday themed porcelain bells. One series was designed as a tree ornament and the other series was not.
The 1980s Bell Ornaments
This series ran from 1983 to 1987 and was originally called the Holiday Bell series but that name was later changed to the Christmas Bell Ornaments. Because they were intended to be hung on a tree, the bell’s mold contains a round loop at the top.
The 1983 Christmas Bell Ornament sold for $145 and was advertised as being produced only during that specific year. A contemporary dealer advertisement gives its height at 4.5” although many online listings cite it as 5”. The dove is perched atop the bell’s hanging-loop which is surrounded by the holly and berries. The impracticality of actually hanging this bell on a tree is immediately apparent. If a wire or other metal hanger is used – the most secure method – it’s likely to scratch the porcelain at best, or chip an edge at worst. A ribbon or other soft hanger avoids this but is just as likely to ‘catch’ on either the dove or a holly leaf edge. Not a very user-friendly design!
An apparent alternate version is this Bell with Dove and Mistletoe. This one is decorated in green instead of blue; instead of the holly and berries we have mistletoe and berries plus a red bow. It is even more of a “hanging” nightmare – remember that the bird, berries, greenery and bow are all merely glued in place. It’s likely that this bell was created for a retail gallery event, probably in the autumn of 1983.
This is the interior of the 1980s bells.
There now occurs an embarassing image/info gap regarding the 1984, 1985 and 1986 bell ornaments because I can find no record or photo of them anywhere! Were they produced during any of those three years? I have a scan of the 1986 Fall/Winter Introductions brochure but it does not include a holiday bell. If any reader has a photo of any of these “missing” annual bells, I would love to add it to this post; please use the direct-contact form on the About the Cybis Archive page.
The next documented bell appears in the Fall/Winter 1987 brochure as the 1987 Christmas Bell. It has a pair of white roses on the top instead of a bird – making it somewhat less risky to hang – and the decoration on the bell is now gold over white bisque. The 1987 bell originally sold at $195 and is shown at $295 on the Cybis site; the photo shows the dated 1987 bell but is captioned simply “Christmas Bell” with reference to a specific year. This is the only part of this 1980s bell-orment series that they still offer and was probably the final version offered from this mold.
The 1990s Holiday Bells
After the apparent retirement of the Christmas Bell Ornament series in 1987, Cybis began a new series in the 1990s which they called the Holiday Bells (reviving the initial name of the 1980s line.) These are entirely different molds and are not intended to be hung from the tree (with one exception which will be noted below.) The bell is 5” high.
This new series was not presented in an annual format but instead Cybis titled it as being consecutive “editions”, thereby removing the restriction of having to issue a new one every year. This reflected the rapidly decreasing market for art porcelain collectibles; the studio simply could not afford to commit to a set calendar-year design/production schedule. However, only three bells were ever offered:
This design was called the Holiday Bell First Edition with Wreath. I have not found any photo other than this one and so don’t know if the interior contains a clapper as seen on the earlier series but it very well might. My guess for an issue year is 1990 or 1991 (it definitely appeared before Nov. 1993) and it sold for $275.
This one was designated as the Holiday Bell Second Edition with Christmas Tree and was probably a 1991 or 1992 introduction. Same price ($275) as the “wreath” edition, although the November 1993 price list also offered the two as a pair for $500, representing a $50 discount from the individual prices. This ‘pair’ option was discontinued shortly thereafter.
There was a third Holiday Bell but I have no photo of it; the Fall 1995 price list from Cybis includes a Holiday Bell Third Edition with Sleigh for $275. This bell must have appeared either in 1994 or in Spring 1995. It continued to be available through the 1990s but was apparantly retired in the early 2000s because it was not shown on the Cybis website during that decade.
The (probably) final Holiday Bell also appeared on the Fall 1995 price list, titled as Holiday Bell Combined Wreath, Christmas Tree, and Sleigh for $350. I have never seen a photo of this one either, but obviously three of the four oval ‘panels’ on the bell each have their own decoration; I have no idea what the fourth panel contains — perhaps the Cybis logo or simply the year? This bell, too, could be had during the rest of the 1990s but not afterward.
If anyone has either of these mid/late 1990 bells, I would love to be able to add pictures here; there is a contact form on the About the Archive page.
Interestingly, among the 1990s yearly series of Twelve Days of Christmas Ornaments, the Nine Ladies Dancing is a downsized version of this same bell mold at 3.25” high. Because the mold has no loop for hanging, that ornament was sold with only a length of gold metallic cord tied around the handle (ouch!)
I remain perplexed about another bell that was included on the 1993, 1995/96, and 1999 price lists and website. Shown there as Christmas Bell with Holly for $275 (in 1993) and $295 thereafter, and noted as being design #20886, it is supposedly 3.25″ high and 3.5″ wide at the base. This makes it shorter than any of the bells we’ve seen so far… or, for that matter, any of the 1950s bells either. It does, however, match the size of the Nine Ladies Dancing bell! This is another bell that I would like to discover a photo of.
The 1950s “Mystery Bells”
While researching the modern holiday bells I came across a couple of 1950s Cybis items that apparantly served as the original source for the 1980s annual series.
This 1950s bell with dove, berries and leaves may appear at first glance to be a “blank” version of the 1983 Christmas Bell but it is not. First of all, these are not holly leaves; and the bell itself has no decorative impressions. The height of the bell was cited as 4″.
Offered in the same lot was a white bisque bird-topped round box, a confirmed 1950s piece which is 2″ high. The bird atop the round box appears to be a downsized version of the one used on the bell.
Here is is a “springtime” version with blue flowers instead of berries and green leaves. Arbitrarily dubbed bell with bird and blue flowers by yours truly, the seller described it as being 3.25″ high. These flowers are very typical of the 1950s Cybis pieces.
The 1950s bells have a more ornate ‘clapper’ than the later versions.
The 2008 Cybis website included, in the “Christmas Ornaments” section, design #A20974 which was titled First Release, Partridge Ball Ornament. There was no photograph and no height provided. The description read “Christmas Ball. First in a brand new series. This collection is portrayed with an elegant, ornate porcelain Xmas Ball.” (some awkward phrasing there) Because the website was never updated after early 2009, the “new series” description sounds as if this was a 2008 item. The retail price shown was $295.
This Reindeer Ornament is something of an anomaly because two (non-Cybis) sources have described it as a “1984 ornament” although no year appears on the item itself. (If this was meant to follow the 1983 Holiday Bell as the ‘annual’ piece, one would think it would have the year on it.) The ball’s size has been cited variously as 4″ diameter, and 3.5″ diameter x 4″ high. Original issue price may have been $145 but this is also unconfirmed. This same ball mold was used again in the 1990s for the Five Golden Rings ornament in the Twelve Days of Christmas series.
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