Zinn Brilliant ornaments sprang from the inventive imagination of 19th-century confectioner, inventor and businessman Gustav A. Mayer, who created the process and the molds for making these highly reflective ornaments in the 1880s.
To the best of our knowledge, while similar ornaments were made in Europe at the time, Mr. Mayer was the only manufacturer who created this type of tin ornament in the United States.
The Best of Holidays Past and Present
A century after the ornaments’ invention, artisans William and Janet Rigby are dedicated to creating holiday décor that recalls a time before impersonal mass production and celebrates the genuine light and warmth of the season.
In their Cooperstown, NY, workshop, the Rigbys have perfected their own artistic technique, combining carefully researched historic elements with modern, sustainable materials.
Meet the Makers
In the late 1980s, Rigbys, who knew two of Mr. Mayer’s then-elderly daughters, purchased the historic ornament molds from an antiques dealer and began to experiment with recreating the dazzling, faceted pieces.
Bill … According to Janet:
By all accounts, Bill Rigby was born about 100 years too late. His interests and abilities are better suited for an age of trains and telegraphs not planes and smart phones. Although he has restored a number of beautiful mansions, as well as an 80-foot-long private rail car, and he runs an antique builders’ hardware company, Bill is best described as a tinkerer. “I think I have one in the attic,” is an oft-heard refrain. His tenacity in rediscovering the process and researching the history set the groundwork for making Zinn Brilliant a reality.
Janet … According to Bill
Janet has always had a passion for the history of everyday things, especially historic clothing and textiles. With a degree is Museum Studies, she has worked at Richmondtown Restoration, where we met, Sleepy Hollow Restorations and The Farmers’ Museum. She dives headlong into her passions, so I was not surprised that, when I brought home these obscure old ornament molds, Janet was eager to revive this art that would have been lost.