Pictured: Each of these true, ocean tumbled sea glass marbles were picked up from along Pacific Ocean and Caribbean beaches. Rugged and rocky shores usually tumble sea glass quite nicely. But why were marbles found along the shore? How did they get there? What were they used for originally and why, so many decades later could they be found rolling around a beach?
HOW DO MARBLES END UP ON THE BEACH?
There are several theories about why marbles occasionally wash up on the world's beaches.
Reason #1: In the late 1800's an inventor named Hiram Codd designed a glass bottle that used a marble as the stopper. The Japanese glass Remune bottle was also sealed-up with a marble. These two bottle styles were used in the US and around the world and likely account for a great many of the beach marbles that have been found (and can very occasionaly still be found) along shores around the world. When a bottle was discarded, often into the sea, the bottle would break against the rocky shore and the marble might stay intact and tumble for years.
Reason #2: Some believe that many years ago, cargo ships were loaded with heavy items to help provide ballast. Marbles may have provided this weight inexpensively and effectively.
In the Puget Sound where the tides move fast and the inlets can be narrow, ballast is key to keeping a sailing vessel upright and true. It reminds me of the white water rafting trips my family goes on down the remote Hell's 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 also needed this kind of weight to help with navigability. 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. "Clay marbles were made in both Germany and the US. It has been reported that clay marbles were used as ballast in the keels of ships that sailed to America from Germany and then were removed and sold in the US" - Marble Collectors Soc. of America "
Reason #3: Decades ago 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 landed just offshore, one day washed beachward.
Reason #4: 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-bluffs at the edge of town) the salt water and ocean's natural biodegrading 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.
Reason #5: For a span of years, post-industrial-era in the US, marbles found along the railroad lines are most likely the result of dumped over freight-glass. The 3/4", orb-like pieces were shipped all over the country for use in the manufacture of fiberglass. It is also believed that glass marbles may have been used for ease in rolling freight and cargo around. This only explains the sea glass marble locale when a rail yard is situated near or along a waterfront.