Wednesday 13 October 2010

ABC Wednesday - M is for Marbles

Image courtesy of Wikimdia Commons
When 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. 


  1. I remember many hours spent playing with marbles as a youngster. Nice choice for M day.

  2. Bonjour sweet friend!
    You are always beautiful, always elegant and I love your hat. ;)
    Many thanks for all information about marble and its story.It's very interesting, mainly I didn't know this word in English, of course I know these lovely little balls but I thought something like glass.

  3. Hope I never lose my marbles.

    Lovely post, as always.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  4. I love the blues ones. :) Nice collection.

  5. Oh, I remember marble season in school. Trying to win as many marbles as you could. We had names as well for the different marbles, which varied to the names in other towns and villages. Occasionally I find marbles on the bus and I will keep them. I've got quite a collection now!

  6. What a terrific and fascinating post for the M Day! What interesting information you found about marbles! Really enjoyed reading it. I never really played with marbles as a child although I was fascinated by them. Today I'm still fascinated by them since most of the time I'm quite certain that I have lost mine!! Hope you're enjoying a great week, Janice!


  7. Fascinating. I never would have thought of marbles as bottle stoppers. Of course my brother and I always had bags full of them when we were children, and we'd play and trade with other children.
    Amazing to think "playing marbles" might go all the way back to cave people. Wonderful information you found, Janice.
    Oh, and thank you for your comment on my blog. I had never seen a hurdy-gurdy man before, either, and didn't get a very good shot of him, but it was rather cute the way the lady tourist was checking her camera while her husband just seemed to be staring. (I can tell that from a back view, ha ha.) Maybe he was listening raptly rather than staring.
    -- Kay, Alberta

  8. Some marbles are true works of art. I remember having a bag of them when I was young. I wonder what ever happened to them?

  9. Roger made a funny. :-D I also enjoyed your M day and remember playing with marbles as a little girl.

  10. I didn't know this history of marbles either and very much enjoyed reading about how it all began. I do recall playing marbles when I was a girl and whilst I was reading this remembered some of my favourites. A

  11. How interesting that the history of marbles goes back to the cave man! I never played marbles but my husband has fond memories of playing marbles during school recess. He says he won lots and, since I know no one who says otherwise, I guess I shall have to believe him. But where are they? :) (I'm thinking maybe he lost a lot too.)

  12. An interesting history I can image the Roman's playing marbles in their northern outpost.
    By a fluke I still have my childhood marbles,my mother put them inside a glass decorative vase for colour.

  13. Gee, I remember playing marbles as a kid and how I tried to get kids of today to play when I was teaching. They weren't that interested, though. Maybe if it was played online or on a Wii...

  14. That was interesting!!
    Never would have thought of reading about the history of marbles had it not been for this post.

    P.S: But that isn't Daddy holding up the Taj! That is his friend! But we are absolutely certain he is strong enough to hold it up too:)
    wags, Buddy n Ginger

  15. Memorable M. I hadn't thought about marbles for quite some time, and don't think I've seen any around for a long time - we used to always have a bunch of them and played by the hour. Great information.

  16. What a great idea for a blog. I might have thought of marbles but I would not have thought of looking up the history of marbles. Great job.

  17. Great story about your dad and the bottle tops. Never knew that. There's something sort of nostalgic and delightful about marbles.

  18. Marbles still fascinate all ages

  19. Great choice for "M". Marbles are very popular again at my girl's school. I think that's so funny since I remember playing them myself when I was a child.

    Erika B

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  21. What a story!

    Hi Janice,

    Blandford is near my place.



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