Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sea Glass Marbles - How Do They End Up On The Beach?

At left: A true, well pitted, blue swirl sea glass marble. Occasionally, a true sea glass marble piece can be found on the beach. It is very rare to find a marble or piece of a marble. Each of these was picked up by me along a Pacific Ocean beach. The rugged and rocky shores of the Pacific tumble our sea glass quite nicely. But why do we find marbles along the shore? How did it get there? What was it used for originally and why, so many decades later is it rolling around the beach?

I've heard several theories (and speak about them often at sea glass seminars) about why marbles occasionally wash up on the world's beaches.

Reason #1: Years ago, many ships were loaded with heavy items to help provide ballast. Marbles provided this weight inexpensively and effectively. In the Puget Sound where the tides move fast and the inlets can be narrow, ballast is key. It reminds me of the white water rafting trips my family goes on down remote Hells Canyon in Idaho's back-country. The heavier, more weighted-down boats fare much better in the turbulent rapids than the lighter rafts. Ships along the Pacific Ocean's rough shore needed this weight to help with navagibility. Yet should they be smashed upon the rocks, the boxes of ballast marbles would surely be lost to sea only to wash up on shore decades and centuries later.

Reason #2: Back in "the day", young children played often with sling shots and marbles for ammunition. And the beach made a great place for target practice. Some children played games by floating a "moving target" piece of driftwood off shore then shot their marbles out into the water toward the target. Some seagulls often became the moving targets also. The resulting marbles which layed just offshore, one day washed beachward.

Reason #3: Painters often dropped a handful of marbles into a can of paint to help mix the batch. When the paint was used up and the can was tossed into the city dump (often times the dump was the sea), the salt water and ocean's natural biodegrating ability decomposed the paint can over the years. The marbles became what was left and each washed around upon the shore until individually beach combed.

Look for photos of some of our rarest and oldest marbles in the August 2008 issue of National Geographic.
Occasionally we sell a rare marble on our website: Rare Marble
More About Sea Glass: West Coast Sea Glass - The internets fastest growing blog directory


glassaholic said...

the info on this glass blog is awesome. i loved reading about sea glass marbles and rare sea glass and ur beach glass photos are so great. thanks for sharing!

seaglasslover said...

Awesome Sea Glass Blog! My first visit and the info on marbles was wonderful w/excellent photos! Took a look around and bought the pale pink stopper stem...LOL!
Cheers YSGP

Dawn Treader said...

That's awesome to know that finding marbles are rare. I have been very lucky in that I have found nine(!!) whole, very frosty, marbles and two pieces of marbles, at the same location within two years time.

Congrats on your National Geographic piece! Love the red shooter marble!

Mary Beth Beuke said...

Hello Sea Glass Lovers,

Thank you for visiting The Sea Glass Blog. Your comments and sea glass enthusiasm are always welcome. And thank you for your patience as we navigate this whole blogging thing. We'll be posting again soon.

Mary Beth -

bathmate said...

very nice blog......
i like your posting ,this is the better blog.


beachglasstreasures said...

I had found a white "confetti" colored marble. Can anyone tell me about the marble and if it is rare? I cannot seem to find any information on the color. Thanks!!

West Coast Sea Glass said...

Hello BGT,
We would be happy to help you with your marble but could use some more info like where it was found, the history of the area etc.

Can you send a photo of it to: Confetti marbles are usually older marbles. It can likely be identified by researching in a marble book or website. We'd like to help if possible. Thanks, MB

Anonymous said...

I have read that some soda companies put marbles into their glass bottles before adding carbonation. The marble would then float up to the top and form a plug keeping the bottle sealed and helping to keep the beverage carbonated. When these soda bottles were tossed into the sea, or in the land fills (along the shore) or thrown off a boat etc. they ended up in the ocean. This is often the case of marbles found around the United Kingdom where this type of soda was popular. There are still drinks made today that contain marbles, most often found made by Japanese manufacturer.