The earliest patent for Christmas tree candle holders is for the clay-ball counter-balance in 1867. A hook in the wire just below the candle was hung over the branch. The counter-weight kept the candle upright even if the bough bent. The counterweights were made of molded clay or lead. Double counterbalances are very rare.
The light-weight candle clip was first patented in 1882. The menagerie of methods for holding the candle is equaled by the innovative means to attach it to the tree. However, these are eclipsed by the decoration of the clip itself. The tin was embossed or lithographed. Embossed clips were painted with colored lacquer, a method called japanning. Most embossed clips have lost their luster with age. The japanning can wear or flake off to the extent that the embossing is all that remains.
Lithographed clips have a colorful applied image and are not embossed. Many of these clips were produced in sets of three. For example, the lithographed Santa pictured here comes in a blue, red, or yellow coat.
Vintage candles come in a variety of colors and lengths. The candle boxes themselves are very collectible. Candles and candle clips have been in continuous production, but the styles made since the advent of electric Christmas tree lights up to the present are limited. The tradition of lighting the tree with candles survived well into the twentieth century. Many regions did not have electric power until World War II and even then, it remained a beautiful and meaningful tradition for many.