Christopher Radko: The King of Keepsake Ornaments

For almost 20 years Christopher Radko has been the king of keepsake ornaments.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionFor the Radko family, the Christmas tree is the best place to presereve memories.
In 1984 Christopher Radko had a holiday disaster that would change the rest of his life. His family’s 14-foot Christmas tree tipped over, crushing almost all of their collection of heirloom glass-blown ornaments. Radko, who was responsible for buying a new tree stand that year and putting up the tree in his family’s Yonkers, New York, home, felt responsible. He started searching for replacement ornaments. When he couldn’t find what he wanted in New York, he searched in Poland while on a trip to visit cousins.

During his visit, Radko sketched the ornament designs for a man learning the age-old business of glass-blown ornaments. They scrounged up antique ornament molds and created new designs. The Radko family couldn’t get back their heirlooms, but they would soon have some new treasures. Except that the ornaments never got to Radko’s family! They were so popular with New York City friends that Radko had to head back to Europe to make more for his family.

No wonder Christmas trees are an inspiration for many of Radko's ornaments: ''The Christmas tree has become our family diary, the centerpiece not only of our holiday decorating, but also of our warmest memories,'' he says.

And the rest is history. Radko went from mailroom worker to holiday diva (he gets rushed and applauded in stores from coast to coast) almost overnight, and his high-quality glass-blown ornaments (1,000 designs created for 2004 alone, 10,000 since 1986) have become collectible classics. Each ornament is created in six steps over the course of seven days, including one step that involves lining it with silver. Today Radko creations are still made in Poland, and also in Italy, the Czech Republic and Germany.