The star is one of the most recognizable symbols of Christmas. It represents hope and the fulfillment of a prophecy. The number eight in the octagram frequently represents beginnings, resurrection, and salvation.
Stars are often used as tree toppers to represent the Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men to the manger where Jesus was born.
The origin of hanging tinsel on Christmas trees might have its root in a European folk tale about a spider whose web turned into shining silver and gold on Christmas Eve. The use of tinsel dates to 17th-century Germany, where the wealthy decorated trees with strips of silver, which reflected the glow and flickering of candlelight.
German immigrants brought this tradition to the United States and by the early 1900s, tinsel became a popular, reusable, and much more affordable Christmas tree decoration made of aluminum and copper.
Heavy demand for copper during WWI put a stop to production of tinsel.
Aluminized paper tinsel became very popular in the 1950s and 60s, but it was highly flammable, so lead tinsel became the standard.
Lead did not tarnish or catch on fire, but the growing awareness of health problems associated with lead exposure led to the end of lead tinsel production in 1972. Today, most tinsel is made from plastic.
The ornament was donated by Vincent Gianella of Auburn. Vincent Gianella was a professor of geology, who spent his career at the University of Nevada and the Mackey School of Mines. He was a resident of Auburn for twenty years and was a member of the Auburn Rotary Club, the Placer County Historical Society, and the Placer County Historical Museum Foundation.