Is it worth it?: Rich man's playthings: Tiffany's Christmas decoration s in crystal and silver, pounds 40 a pop
I have to confess to a vested interest in the subject of Christmas baubles. As I was a toddler not at all keen on nourishment of any form, it was with mixed feelings that my mother watched my three-year-old self tuck into one of her prize, fine-glass Christmas tree ornaments one Christmas Eve. And since then, although I've (unfortunately) grown out of my hatred of eating, my love of baubles has only grown, accentuated by my discovery of aerosol "snow" spray.

What then to do with these china, crystal and sterling silver offerings from Tiffany and Co, each weighing in at around the pounds 40 mark? Even my trigger-happy snow-spray finger would baulk at covering this little lot in Woolworth's pounds 2.99 finest. And yet it would be easy for the uninitiated to think that the decorations themselves came from the same emporium, as the china and the silver are really not at all special to look at. But what makes them so desirable, according to Tiffany's Imogen Scrutton, is their exclusive design and the fact that the yearly Tiffany decoration has become something of a collector's institution. Oh, and also because the swanky packaging (blue pouch inside the signature blue box) makes them the only Christmas decorations that count as status symbols.

"I wouldn't mind hanging up the pouches on the Christmas tree," agrees Michelle Ogundehin, features director of Elle Decoration. She remains unconvinced, however, by the trio of baubles themselves. "To get the right effect, you'd certainly need more than one of each, so you'd end up spending loads of money on them. The idea of spending so much to get the decor right is surely missing the point," she adds. "Christmas decorations are supposed to be fun - with this lot you'd need to take out insurance on the tree."

Ogundehin's big tip for Christmas 1997 is the "mirror ball", those come- back-Saturday-Night-Fever-all-is-forgiven pieces of kitsch. "They're fantastic," she enthuses, "because they give off flashes of light everywhere." Every store that knows its retro from its elbow currently stocks them, although Paperchase and Liberty jointly share the first prize of a turn on the dance floor with John Travolta for having the biggest selection, starting at pounds 2. Indeed for only a few pounds more than the cost of any of Tiffany's, Liberty offers a silver ball large enough to entice even the most reticent into chest wig and flares.

Like Tiffany, Harrods has a large following for its yearly festive offerings, custom-made baubles in two different designs. But for those who can actually see the point of decorations adorned with twee shepherd boys, tough luck. Harrods opened its Christmas department on 9 August (wasn't I sunbathing on holiday then?) and sold out of its limited edition pounds 6.95 apiece baubles in October. The good news is that they still have plenty of their fish- themed decorations at pounds 2.95 left. Fish, loaves and fishes, Jesus, Christmas - yes, I suppose there's a connection. Although it's a moot point as to whether the Lord actually said, as these little wooden ornaments declare, "Goin' fishin', back late".

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