Seaglass Marbles - How Do Marbles End Up On a Beach?

Seaglass Marbles, Sea Glass Marbles, Beach Glass Marbles, Seaglass History, Marble History

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?

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.

Seaglass Marbles, Sea Glass Marbles, How do they end up on the beach? Beach Glass Marbles, Sea Glass Jewelry

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.

Look for a story and photo of one of of our rarest and oldest marbles in the August 2008 issue of National Geographic. Occasionally we sell a rare marble set in fine jewelry on our website here.
See some of the West Coast Sea Glass line of rarities for sale here: 
Sea Glass Collector's Gems
More here: About Sea Glass and The Ultimate Guide to Sea Glass


Awesome Sea Glass Blog! My first visit and the inf...

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

That's awesome to know that finding marbles are ra...

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!

I have read that some soda companies put marbles i...

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.