A reader writes:
I have seen Christmas tree lights that have cloth covered wire with flickering lights. They have a bead that slides over the wire so you can slide the bead away from the light sicket and slide the loop over a branch and tighten the bead to hold a flicjering light look like a candle. Where can I buy some?
Unless you've seen a reproduction, the wiring is old. The cloth insulation was on there from the beginning of light strands, and the beads were invented in 1926. Both disappeared when the insulation changed to vinyl. If you click the following link and go down about a third of the page, you'll see a little write-up on the invention of the bead:http://www.oldchristmastreelights.com/1921_1929_3.htm
Collectors find these at flea markets, estate sales, etc., and then sell the ones they don't need on eBay.
I'm forwarding this note to Fred Fox, who operates an online vintage Christmas decoration store called NoelKat. Fred can fill in any gaps in my account, because he knows a lot more about this stuff than I do.
The bulbs you are referring to are called "flicker flame Christmas lights" and are actually a more recent bulb in Christmas light form that came out in the 1990s. They are shaped the same as the 1940s/50s red/yellow candle flame Christmas lights that were available in different base sizes in the day. They are still made and are easy to obtain just google "flicker flame Christmas lights". What you have seen is most likely new flicker flame bulbs in an old cloth covered wire Christmas light socket set. NOT all information contained on the "oldchristmastreelights" website is correct. The sliding bead commonly called "berry beads" were used in particular by NOMA on their "pitch sealed" cloth covered wire sets followed by vinyl covered wire sets well into the mid 50s. In particular they were used on Candelabra base cloth and vinyl Christmas light sets in the US and Candelabra and Intermediate base Christmas light sets in Canada until the mid 1950s. These NOMA sets can be found on several online market place Internet sites that sell vintage merchandise or antique and collectible shops. You will have to piece the bulbs and socket set together if you are wanting that specific look.
-------My response to Fred's Response-------------
Sorry, I was thinking about the wiring rather than the bulbs. The infamous flicker lights ARE more modern. I had some in the 1970s. They have a flame-shaped conductor that the electricity more or less arcs across in the semi-vacuum of the bulb. One side effect is that they cause a lot of electromagnetic interference if they're close to a stereo or television that isn't well shielded. I wouldn't exactly recommend them as mood lighting in a recording studio. Our readers' set must have come from someone who matched up a very old wiring system with a relatively new set of bulbs.