Today is a momentous day for baubles. The world's most expensive bauble, worth a cool £83,000 and peppered with 1,500 diamonds, will be unveiled this evening. The glittering sphere, which was made in a Hampshire village, is a sparkling indicator of how baubles have evolved over the years. Not so long ago, families chose to string up apples and nuts on their Christmas tree branches but the bestsellers of today show how times have changed.
It has taken Mark Hussey, 38, owner of family business Hallmark Jewellers over a year to make the world's most expensive bauble. He started work on it the day after Boxing Day 2008; it features a snowflake-cut pattern among a hallmarked 18 carat white gold sphere and is orbited by two ruby encrusted rings. "As we researched other amazing baubles, we discovered the most expensive one was £26,784," says Hussey. "We thought, why not see if we can beat it – but we were bowled over when it was valued at £82,000." Time will tell if they will find a buyer for this sparkly number.
Meanwhile, the high street is witnessing interesting trends among the Christmas decorations market. While last year obsessed about the glittering purple Christmas, the Noel of '09 is more about patriotism and homemade charms.
The Union Jack revival of 2009, which renewed the Britpop mania of yesteryear, is muscling onto our Christmas tree branches. In fact, the Union Jack bauble is one of the most popular bestsellers this festive season.
In Selfridges Christmas Shop, their shiny red, blue and silver Union Jack bauble sold out within the first week, selling more than 2,000. "Our Christmas shop has become a tourist attraction in itself with tourists buying our Union Jack bauble as a souvenir of their time in London and local customers cheering themselves up with our Panto themed decorations," says Head Buyer Geraldine James. "With Christmas arriving earlier each year, I can see a time when we’ll offer a capsule Christmas collection throughout the year."
If a brash bauble of the national flag is too brazen for you, there is a charming Little Mini Cooper Christmas bauble that features a Union Jack roof. Also by Bombki are the popular miniature taxis, telephone boxes and the London bus, each delicately handmade in glass. The Little English collection now sits alongside other nationalities. Available at Heal's, there is now a Little New York range (just think, yellow cab, Statue of Liberty) and a pocket-sized Little Paris range (Moulin Rouge, Mona Lisa and Eiffel Tower).
The Union Jack bauble is nothing if not cheeky; a recurring theme this year when shoppers are looking for something to raise a smile. The green "I hate sprouts" bauble, for just £1.99 from Homebase says it all.
On the other hand, there is an over-riding emphasis on craft and the home-made this year. Whether you make your decorations yourself – or simply choose to go for the home-made Nordic aesthetic, craft decor is a trend for Christmas 09. Laura Ashley, Cath Kidston and Few and Far have launched retro-looking collections of decorations. Laura Ashley's embroidered reindeers and stockings resemble charming hand-me-downs while Priscilla Carluccio’s Chelsea boutique Few and Far is selling handcrafted bird decorations and baubles. Cath Kidston, who is keen to promote sewing and making your own gifts, says "I like to add new decorations to my collection each year - they are a mixture of vintage and fun."
These humble and crafty ornaments are a reminder of days gone by. It's certainly a far cry of the £83,000 diamond bauble unveiled today.