The History of Christmas Tinsel
Tinsel is yet another contribution from Germany. It was developed around 1610 originally using shaped strands of silver. Since silver tarnishes quickly, other shiny metals were soon substituted...
During a time when candles were the only source of light on a Christmas Tree, tinsel was added to reflect and enhance the flickering flames. It was soon thought of as a representation of the starry sky that hovered above the Nativity.
By the early 20th Century, advances in manufacturing methods allowed the production of an inexpensive aluminum-based tinsel. But with the onslaught of World War I, wartime demands for copper limited its production.
In the 1950's when highly-flammable-yet-fashionable aluminum Christmas Trees were popular, lights were often supplanted by tinsel.
Then, in the 20th Century, lead foil was developed. Since lead didn't tarnish like silver and the cost was measurably less, lead foil became the manufactures' choice for tinsel production. This product remained popular for decades. But after the 1960's a growing concern about the affects of lead exposure in children saw the gradual decline in the manufacture of lead tinsel. A voluntary end to the production and import of lead tinsel beginning after January 1, 1972 was agreed to by manufacturers and importers.
Today's tinsel is usually made from plastic film coated with a metallic finish or coated Mylar film, which is cut into thin strips. While it's not as esthetically pleasing as heavier metals, it is still a beautiful addition to any tree, archway or mantle available for Christmas.