Image courtesy of Wikimdia CommonsWhen my father was a little boy the tops of bottles were stopped with glass spheres which were enthusiastically collected. These marbles were treasures.
When I checked to make sure I hadn’t dreamt up this anecdote – my father sadly no longer being available to quiz on the matter, I discovered a whole world and fascinating history of marbles.
It is believed that cave people played games of marbles with small pebbles or balls of clay. Ancient Egyptian tombs have disclosed similar clay marbles as have Native American burial grounds and the Aztec pyramids. Examples from Rome and ancient Egypt can be seen at the British Museum and probably other museums around the world. (I’m a Brit, so inclined to be somewhat parochial!)
Marbles may also have been made from wood or flint.
I learned that there are often references to marbles in Roman literature and that it is likely that the Romans introduced marbles to the far-flung countries of their empire. Following this, marbles were made of stone or occasionally real marble. Glass marbles were made in Venice and about 1800 marbles made of china were introduced.
However, when a German glassblower invented ‘marble scissors’ in 1846 the manufacture of marbles accelerated. Marble scissors resembled a pair of sugar tongs with a cup on one arm and a cutting implement on the other. A molten glass rod would be placed in the cup which would be twisted to create the sphere. Shutting the tongs would slice off the rest of the glass. The spheres would then be cooled in water. There was a great variety of colours and patterns. Such marbles were increasingly popular throughout Europe and America.
There are many annual marbles tournaments nationally and internationally but for me marbles remain an entrancing tactile and visual joy. Our children and grandchildren have enjoyed playing and collecting marbles. Who could fail to be fascinated by these kaleidoscopes of colour and perfect form?
Thanks go to Marvellous Denise Nesbitt and her Merry Men and woMen who Meticulously Monitor this weekly Meme. Click here to see more Ms.