GLASS HAND MADE MARBLES
Hand made glass marbles were invented in Lauscha, Germany, in the late 1840s. They were produced until the early part of the twentieth century, when World War I and the invention of marble producing machinery in America effectively ended the hand made marble industry. For a much more thorough description of the history of hand made glass marbles, please visit my History of Glass Making in Lauscha Germany page.
Transparent Swirls can be found in size from 7/16" to well over two inches, though some are more restricted in their size range. The most common size is 9/16"-11/16". Several factors can increase the collectibility and therefore the value of Transparent Swirls. Naked examples, along with those possessing three levels, are rarer and therefore more collectible. Examples with a left-hand twist are also more highly prized but often go undetected; these marbles have a twist to their design that goes to the right of the viewer, rather than to the left as is much more common.
Another factor that may positively affect the value of a Transparent Swirl is if it is from the end or beginning of the cane. End-of-cane examples have a design that terminates somewhere inside the marble without reaching the other side; since they are the last marble off the cane there will only be one pontil, and it is from this that the design originates. These are rare because most marbles from the end of the cane were mis-shaped or just not very pleasing to the maker, and were rejected. Beginning-of-cane examples are harder to recognize but have a design that seems to come out of one end of the marble.
Latticinio Swirls possess cores comprised of colored strands that are usually twisted into a lattice-shaped appearance. Sometimes there is little twist to the marble and the strands will be rather straight. Now and then the strands will be divided, typically into three different sets. The color of the core is white, yellow, orange, red, green, and blue, in increasing order of rarity. On rare occasions there will be two colors in the core, and usually these colors alternate. The colors are typically opaque, though translucent strands do occur, especially in white examples.
The base glass is almost always clear and colorless, though tinted glass is found infrequently in shades of blue, green, or even amber. Some Latticinio Swirls are "naked," that is, lacking an outer design. However, most have such an outer layer and this almost always consists of either single colored strands or multicolored bands. The bands are most often of two different color schemes, alternating with one another (four and six bands are the rule though exceptions can occur), while the strands occur in sets, usually four, and may have two to five or more strands in each set. The strands may be all of one color, alternate within the set, or be in sets of alternating colors. The most common colors on the outer design are white and yellow, followed by green, blue, pink, orange, red, and purple, and may be either transparent or opaque.
Latticinio Swirls are the most common type of hand made glass marble. Compared to most other handmade marbles, Latticinio Swirls have little value, though there are several factors that can increase their value, other than large size and/or rarity of colors (especially core color). One is whether or not there are alternating colors in the core, and another is the appearance of the core itself, specifically how well defined the lattice is.
White Latticinio Swirl
White Latticinio Swirl
White Latticinio Swirl
Translucent Latticinio Swirl
Yellow Latticinio Swirl
Orange Latticinio Swirl
Red Latticinio Swirl
Green Latticinio Swirl
Yellow Latticinio Swirl w/Orange
Alternating Yellow/Aventurine Green Latticinio Swirl
Alternating Yellow/Orange Latticinio Swirl
Alternating Yellow/White Latticinio Swirl
Divided Yellow Latticinio Swirl
SOLID CORE SWIRLS
Solid Core Swirls come in several different forms, though the one pervasive trait all have is that the core appears solid, with no or at the very most minor openings. Like Latticinio Swirls, the base glass is almost always colorless, though on rare occasions it may be colored.
The core may be cylindrical or it may have lobes, and it may either be transparent or opaque. Single colored cores are usually cylindrical and are truly "solid," while multicolored cores are often comprised of tightly spaced bands. On the latter type, the bands may be situated in such a manner as to give the appearance of lobes if the core is observed from above. Solid colored cores often have strands on their surface, either straight or twisted around the core. Sometimes these strands "float" well above the core; in such cases the marble is considered "trilevel." The most common core colors are yellow and white when the core is solid colored; otherwise a wide variety of colored bands may comprise the core.
Like Latticinio Swirls, Solid Core Swirls almost always possess an outer design that most often consists of alternating colored bands or sets of typically white and/or yellow strands. When strands occur at equidistantly spaced intervals and are very close together all the way around the marble, the marble is considered "caged." "Naked" specimens lacking the outer layer are not uncommon.
Solid Core Swirl
Trilevel Solid Core Swirl
Caged Solid Core Swirl
Lobed Solid Core Swirl
Lobed Solid Core Swirl
"String" Solid Core Swirl
Solid Core Swirl in Blue Glass
DIVIDED CORE SWIRLS
Divided Core Swirls have, as the name indicated, a core comprised of separated bands. There will be at least three and as many as six bands. The most common number is four, followed closely by three, then five and six. The bands are usually multicolored but are sometimes single colored. They may all be the same color combination but more often, particularly on the common four-band examples, have two different color combinations that alternate.
The other traits that apply to solid core swirls also apply to divided core swirls. That is, examples may be "naked," "caged," "trilevel," or even "four-leveled." Some Divided Core Swirls have bands that are very close together but still have observable spaces in between them; these are considered "closed" Divided Core Swirls, an oxymoron that is really only useful in differentiating them from true solid core swirls.
Divided Core Swirl
Divided Core Swirl in Pink Glass
RIBBON CORE SWIRLS
Ribbon Core Swirls are a type of Transparent Swirl with either one or two bands, or "ribbons," at the core. Those with one ribbon are called Single Ribbon Core Swirls and those with two are known as Double Ribbon Core Swirls; the latter are more common than the former, but both are more rare than most Latticinio, Solid Core, or Divided Core Swirls.
The bands in these marbles are usually wide but are sometimes narrow, especially in double ribbon cores, and may be thick or extremely thin. On the double ribbon varieties, there is usually color only on one side of each ribbon, while on the single ribbon examples both sides often have colors. Each side of the ribbon may be the same color scheme, or they may be different.
As with all swirls, ribbon cores may either be "naked" or have outer designs. The outer designs are typically comprised of sets of strands, though bands do occur, and most commonly mirror the ribbon or ribbons. The colors of both the ribbons and the outer strands or bands are much like those seen in other types of Transparent Swirls, though bright colors seem to be more common in these.
Single Ribbon Core Swirl
Single Ribbon Core Swirl
Double Ribbon Core Swirl
RIBBON LUTZ SWIRLS
Basically, a Ribbon Lutz Swirl is a Naked Ribbon Core Swirl with a wide, thick ribbon edged on both sides by "Lutz," or goldstone. The Lutz is usually flanked by narrow strands, usually white in color. They may have one or, less commonly, two ribbons, and the ribbons are opaque. The ribbons are either white covered with a transparent color or are themselves colored. If the marble has two ribbons, both are almost always the same color, though rarely two different colors occur. The base glass is most often clear, but on occasion color-based examples are found, and the ribbons in these are always white.
Ribbon Lutz Swirl
JOSEPHS COAT SWIRLS
Josephs Coat Swirls possess subsurface multicolored strands placed very close together, though sometimes there are open areas that allow the interior of the marble to be viewed. Some of the strands may go deeper into the glass, often to the core. The colors of the strands may be very bright or more earth-toned, and the base glass may be clear or less frequently colored, usually light or pale blue. There may be many different colors in the strands or as few as two. It is uncommon, but Josephs Coat Swirls may also contain aventurine.
Josephs Coat Swirl
Josephs Coat Swirl
Josephs Coat Swirl
Beachball Josephs Coat Swirl
BANDED TRANSPARENT SWIRLS
Banded Transparent Swirls are those swirls that have colored bands on the surface of the marble. The base glass may be clear but is usually colored. Shades of blue and green are most common. The exterior bands may be multicolored and very bright, or may consist of only one color. The strands may occur individually or be in sets spaced close together. In some examples the bands cover the entire surface (or close to it), and these are referred to as 360 Degree Banded Transparent Swirls. Sometimes the bands are not random but occur in one or two, and rarely more, panels. These are often called transparent Indians since they are made in the same fashion.
Banded Transparent Swirl
Coreless Swirls are very similar to Josephs Coat Swirls, with the exception that the bands in Coreless Swirls may be much wider and are not closely spaced. Also, there are fewer strands or bands that go deep into the marble, though sometimes they do and may even be at the core, despite what the name of the marble suggests. The bands of Coreless Swirls may all be the same color or may occur in a number of colors; however, each band is typically one color, as opposed to the outer bands on other types of transparent swirls, which may be composed of two or more colors.
TRANSPARENT BANDED LUTZ SWIRLS
Transparent Banded Lutz Swirls possess a clear or colored base, with two opposing goldstone, or "Lutz," bands edged by white or (rarely) colored opaque strands. In between these are two sets of, or much less often single, white or colored opaque bands. The opaque bands are typically all of the same color. I have seen one example of this type of marble with four Lutz bands and no opaque bands; however, it was a reject dug from a German glassworks site.
Transparent Banded Lutz Swirl
Peppermint Swirls have a transparent base, but this is completely covered with color that lies just under the surface of the marble. These marbles all have a pink, white, and blue color combination. Typically, there are two opposing blue bands of varying thickness and two opposing white bands that cover up the remaining base of the marble. Floating on top of the white will be pink bands that are usually, but not always, narrower than the blue bands. Most examples have two or three pink bands per white band, though single pink bands occur infrequently. On these, and even more rarely, the pink, white, and blue bands may be the same width; such specimens are referred to as "Beachballs." Peppermint Swirls with more than three pink bands are very rare, as are those with different numbers of pink bands in each white panel. On occasion, a pink or green band may occur in a blue band, or a blue band may occur in a pink band.
Mica rarely occurs in Peppermint Swirls. When present, it is found in the blue bands.
Beachball Peppermint Swirl
Gooseberry Swirls are a type of Coreless Swirl in which the base glass is an amber color. Rarely, however, the base glass may be clear, green, or blue. Just under the surface will be white strands that are typically equidistantly spaced. As with many Coreless swirls, some of the strands may go into the core.
Caramel Swirls are a type of Coreless Swirl in which the base glass is transparent dark brown. It contains white strands or swirls that often fill much of the base glass. Rare examples contain mica.
Caramel Swirl with Mica
A Mist Swirl is a type of transparent swirl that have varying amounts of stretched bands or flecks of translucent or transparent colors beneath the surface. The base is often clear, but is usually colored, most often green or blue. When the base is clear, the bands are almost always green. Some Mist Swirls also have mica, and even more rarely a few have goldstone. These latter examples are known as Mist Lutz Swirls.
Mist Swirl with Mica
Mica Swirls are transparent-based marbles that may be clear, various shades of green, brown, various shades of blue, gray, amethyst, red, or yellow. Within the glass are flecks of mica (muscovite) that may vary widely in size and amount (mica swirls with large amounts of mica are called "blizzards"). Usually, the mica will all swirl in the same direction, though it may also seem to float randomly within the marble.
Mica Swirls commonly contain "ghost" and/or "filament" cores. A ghost core is a group of tiny air bubbles all contained within an ethereal "sheath." Filament cores are typically green, and are thin strands that run straight from pontil to pontil. They are often within ghost cores but are sometimes alone, too. Other rare examples have exterior bands.
Submarines are difficult to classify but seem best suited to the category of Transparent Swirls. These are marbles that superficially resemble Paneled Onionskins. However, two opposing panels of color will have colored bands on the surface of the marble, which has a transparent base that is usually blue, green or clear. The other two panels, which fill in the space left by the two surface ones, will have colored bands under the surface. It is this alternating surface/subsurface paneling that defines the Submarine. These marbles are rare, and those with mica in the clear panels are rarer still.
Opaque and Translucent Swirls are not typically found in the larger sizes as are Transparent Swirls; very few have been found with a diameter of over two inches. However, the most common sizes are about the same as those of the Transparent Swirls; that is, 9/16" to 11/16". The same factors that can increase the rarity and value of the transparent swirls also apply to the Opaque and Translucent Swirls: end of canes, left hand twists, and so forth.
Indian Swirls typically possess an opaque black base. However, some are translucent (so-called Maglites, since a powerful flashlight is required to make light pass through them), and these will have an amethyst, dark green, red, amber, or blue base. On the surface will be stretched bands of color; some go from pontil to pontil while others are discontinuous and are often referred to as "end of day." A variety of colors may occur; yellow and white are most common, followed by red, blue, green, orange, and lavender. Oxblood is found only extremely rarely.
The colored bands commonly occur in panels. There are usually two panels, though individual panels are frequently found, while three-paneled examples are more scarce. At other times the bands will be more or less random and on occasion cover nearly all of the marble's surface. These latter examples are called 360 degree Indian Swirls and are highly prized.
On some Paneled Indians there will be a set of white or colored strands under the surface. The panels are usually edged with white or yellow strands on the surface. These are sometimes known as Submarine Indians.
Banded Indian Swirls are similar to Paneled Indian Swirls, except that they exhibit multiple single colored bands that are typically edged on both sides by another color, usually white.
On rare occasions, goldstone is found on Indians. These are known as Indian Lutz Swirls and occur in two basic styles. One style has more or less random streaks of goldstone intermingled among the colored bands, while the other possesses three Lutz bands, each edged by colored strands. On the latter style, each band usually has strands of a different color.
Three-Paneled Submarine Indian Swirl
Submarine Indian Swirl
360 Degree Indian Swirl
Paneled Indian Swirl
Banded Indian Swirl
Clambroths are an opaque, semi-opaque, or translucent type of swirl that has colored strands (most often pink) on the surface. The strands are usually equidistantly spaced and are typically all of the same color, though examples with two, three, or even more colors are found. The base is almost always white and often composed of a soft glass that is subject to chipping and bruising. However, Clambroths sometimes have a colored base, and the most common of these are opaque pale blue or translucent dark purple.
The number of strands on the surface is usually between eight and 18. Some have more than 18 and this often results in the strands being very closely spaced. These are known as "Caged" Clambroths. On occasion, there will be a thin layer of clear glass over the strands; such marbles are considered "Cased."
Black Based Clambroth
BANDED OPAQUE SWIRLS
Banded Opaque Swirls can have either an opaque or translucent base, usually white, with stretched bands or strands of color on the surface. Colored glass base examples are rare and therefore more valuable. The surface colors may stretch from pontil to pontil or may be found in discontinuous "end of day" streaks. Sometimes there will only be one color, though multiple color specimens occur and may even give the marble a multicolored "Josephs Coat" appearance.
The Lightning Strike is a specialized type of Banded Opaque Swirl that is extremely rare. On these, the surface colors go around the equator (perpendicular to the usual trajectory) and often form "lightning-shaped" streaks.
Banded Opaque Swirl
Banded Opaque Swirl
BANDED OXBLOOD SWIRLS
Banded Oxblood Swirls are a recently discovered type of hand made marble that are composed of solid oxblood (German-style) with two opposing bands of white and/or yellow just under the surface but floating on the oxblood. These are extremely rare and only appear to be originating from digs at German glassworks sites, and thus are almost always damaged or imperfect.
Banded Oxblood Swirl
Butterscotch Swirls have a semi-opaque light brown base glass with translucent brownish to pinkish strands completely covering the marble's surface.
Custard Swirls are similar to butterscotch swirls but have a more yellowish brown base glass.
OPAQUE BANDED LUTZ SWIRLS
Opaque Banded Lutz Swirls are identical to transparent examples, except that the base is opaque, typically black. Some examples appear opaque but when backlit with strong light they actually are seen to have a transparent base, albeit very dark. These are usually in shades of purple.
Opaque Banded Lutz Swirl
Maglite Banded Lutz Swirl
Handmade Corkscrews represent a rarely seen type of hand made opaque swirl. These are usually semi-opaque and were formed from a cane that was one color on one side and another on the opposite side. The twisting of the molten cane to form the marble resulted in a corkscrew-like pattern of the two colors. These colors are usually blue or green in combination with white.
ONIONSKINS AND CLOUDS
Onionskins are a transparent-based (usually clear but sometimes colored) type of marble in which there is either a transparent clear or colored core on which are stretched flecks of color (usually opaque but sometimes transparent---the latter are sometimes called Mist Onionskins). The core will often almost entirely fill the marble so that the colors are very close to the surface, though sometimes the core will be closer to the center of the marble. Such examples are considered "Shrunken." Examples with multiple layers in the cores are known, too.
Onionskins can have either flecks that are stretched from pole to pole are those which are discontinuous. The latter types are known as "End of Day" Onionskins. There may be as few as one color or many colors, and the more colors present, generally the more desirable the marble. White, blue, pink, green, and yellow are the most common colors.
Paneled Onionskins are those that have two or more "panels" that consist of colors different than the other panels. Generally, there will be two colors in each panel, and the panels most often occur in even numbers and are opposite one another. Four paneled examples are the most common, though some have two or six (or more). Specimens with an odd number of panels (three or five) are rare.
Some Onionskins are "lobed"; that is, they have cores with slightly shrunken spaces from pole to pole. Thus, the core appears undulating to some extent. Lobed Onionskins are fairly rare and may have as few as three and as many as 18 lobes.
Onionskins rarely have either muscovite (Mica Onionskins) or goldstone (Lutz Onionskins) floating above the core. In the case of Lutz Onionskins, the core itself may contain streaks of goldstone. Both types are difficult to find and valuable, particularly Lutz Onionskins.
End of Day Onionskin
Two Panel Onionskin
Lobed and Paneled Onionskin
Two Panel Onionskin
Two Panel Onionskin
Onionskin in Blue Glass
Four Panel Onionskin
Shrunken Core Onionskin with Floating Mica Panels
Banded Paneled Onionskin
A Cloud is similar to an onionskin, but has flecks of colors that are not stretched, but which form spots within the glass. These spots of color may occur on a core or simply "float" within the base glass. As in Onionskins, the base glass of Clouds is usually clear but may be colored, and like Onionskins they may be lobed or paneled, and may contain muscovite (Mica Cloud) or goldstone (Lutz Cloud).
Many Clouds have single pontils and their construction as single-gather marbles seems intentional. However, they are often confused with End of Cane Onionskins.
Four Panel Cloud
End of Day Cloud
Single Pontil Cloud
SOLID COLORED MARBLES
Monochromatic (Solid Colored) marbles belong in a class by themselves because they are not swirls, having no design. They are composed of one color, either opaque, transparent, or translucent. Many Solid Colored hand made marbles have single pontils, though most will evince two pontils. They often contain tiny air bubbles that are oriented in one direction, demonstrating how they were twisted from the cane.
OPAQUES ("GAME AND BALLOT BOX MARBLES")
Opaque marbles are comprised of glass that will not let light pass through. Among these, black and white are the most common colors, as they were used in ballot boxes for voting. A black marble represented a "no" vote and a white marble represented a "yes" vote. Other colors may include blue, pink, green, and red. Other colors are known but are rare.
Transparent marbles ("Clearies") are generally more rare than Opaques. Clear examples are most common, with green, blue, and amber also occurring.
Translucents are the least common of the Solid Colored marbles; they are defined by their ability to let light pass through them. White, light blue, and light green are the most common colors.
The "Moonie" is most often associated with machine made marbles, particularly Akro Agate and Christensen Agate. However, some hand made examples do exist. The Moonie is a translucent whitish marble made of opalescent glass. This type of glass is easily recognizeable if backlit because it will give off an orangish glow. Such glass is considered to be an American invention of the early twentieth century, having been perfected at Steuben. However, the one example of a handmade Moonie I have seen was sent to me from Germany and exhibits two pontils like all hand made marbles produced from around 1850-1920.
Sulphides are a type of single-gather hand made marble that have a figurine (or rarely two or even three figurines) within a transparent base. These are fairly large marbles; the smallest size is around 3/4" and is rare. More commonly, they range in size from around an inch to two inches. Large examples occur, but infrequently.
Sulphide figurines are only very rarely painted. Most have a silverish appearance, though in actuality they are white. The silver color is due to a thin layer of trapped air surrounding the figurine. Sometimes large bubbles occur in the glass, often adhering to the figurine and often obscuring its appearance. This can negatively affect value.
Because Sulphides were formed individually on the end of a punty, they have only one pontil. Ideally, the pontil, which is usually ground or melted, should be directly beneath the figurine. However, depending on the skill of the maker, the pontil can be in areas that detract from viewing the figurine. This, too, can lessen the marble's eye appeal and therefore value.
Other factors that relate to the skill of the marble maker and the value of the marble include how well centered the figurine is and whether or not the figurine has fractures due to heat stress when it was inserted into the molten glass.
The base glass of Sulphides is almost always clear. However, rare examples possess colored glass, usually blue. Other colors can include green, amber, yellow, amethyst, and pink.
Sulphides fall into three broad categories, based on the type of figurine inside: animal figurines, human figurines, and inanimate object figurines. Each type will be discussed below.
Human Figural Sulphides
Sulphides with human figurines are among the most valuable and indeed are quite rare. They occur either standing, sitting, or in bust form. Some represent real life persons, while others are of mythical figures. Most common, however, are simply anonymous characters. Known examples include the following figurines: angel playing flute, ape man (alone or in colonial dress), baby (alone or in basket or cradle), barrister, boy (alone or as baseball player or sailor with boat, or sitting on stump or praying, or with accordion, dog, hammer, hat, or horn, or nude), Beethoven (bust), cellist, cherub head (alone or with wings), child (with book, dog, or croquet, or as a face on a disk, or on sled), Christ on the cross, clown, Columbus (bust), court jester, Dolly Madison, dunce, elf (alone or with wings), gargoyle, George Washington, Genghis Khan (head), girl (alone or bathing, brushing hair, or sitting in swing, or with doll, or nude), gnome, Goliath (bust), hunter carrying deer, Jenny Lind (bust), Kaiser Wilhelm, Kate Greenway, leprechaun, Little Boy Blue, Little Red Riding Hood, Madonna, (alone or seated on throne), man (holding hat, on potty or rock, or with rifle, or mounted on horse, or carrying sack, or playing mandolin), Mary Gregory, Moses, Mother Goose, mummy, owl man, president, prospector, Quasimodo, Queen Victoria, Revolutionary War soldier, Teddy Roosevelt, Santa Claus (alone or on potty), Sphinx, tin man, troubadour, Wicked Witch, and woman (alone, or in bust form, or with basket, or sitting on potty, or as face on disk). Double figurine examples include children holding hands, double Madonna, girl with lamb, Little Boy Blue and sheep, Madonna with book-reading girl, man and woman peasants dancing, and soldier holding musket and woman.
"Seated Boy" Sulphide
Animal Figural Sulphides
Sulphides with animal figurines are among the most common. The most frequently occurring of these are pets, farm animals, and common types of animals. Rarer are wild animals. There is an almost endless variety of animal Sulphides known: afghan hound, alligator, alpaca, anteater, ape, armadillo, baboon, badger, bantam rooster, bat, bear (alone, or holding pole, or with bat, fish, or hat), beaver, bird, bison, boar, buffalo, bull, buzzard, camel, caribou, cat (alone or on platform), cheetah, chicken, cockatoo, collie, colt, cow, cougar, coyote, crane, deer, doe, dog (alone or with bird in mouth), dove, donkey, duck (sitting or flying), eagle (alone or with arrows in claw, or on ball), elephant, egret, fish, fox, frog, goat, goose (sitting or flying), hawk, hedgehog, hen, hippopotamus, hog, honey bee, horse (alone or with saddle, or on rock), iguana, jackal, kangaroo, kitten (face only), lamb, leopard, lion, lioness, lizard, llama, lobster (alone or on rock), mandrill, marmot, mastiff, monkey (alone or with banana, hat, or wings), mouse, mule, newt, otter, owl (sitting or flying), panda, panther, partridge (sitting or on nest), peacock, Pegasus, pelican, penguin, pheasant, pig, pigeon (sitting or on stump), polar bear, Pomeranian, porcupine, puma, quail, rabbit (sitting or reading), raccoon, ram (along or head only), rat, rhinoceros, rooster, seagull, seal, shark, sheep, snake, sparrow, squirrel, stork, sturgeon, swan, tiger, tigress, turkey, turtle, vulture, water bird, weasel, whale, whippet, wolf (alone or with shawl), wolverine, and woodcock. Double figurine examples include cow with calf, double eagle, hen with rooster, pair of doves, pair of fish, pair of lovebirds, rooster and dog, and sheep with lamb. Triple figurine examples include bird, cat, and fish, three bears, and three fish.
"Standing Rooster" Sulphide
"Standing Pig" Sulphide
"Standing Dog" Sulphide
"Standing Lion" Sulphide
"Nut-Eating Squirrel" Sulphide
"Standing Lamb" Sulphide
Inanimate Object Sulphides
Sulphides with inanimate objects are quite rare as Sulphides go. Known examples include the following figurines: anchor, cannon, coin (with or without numbers), crucifix, flower, numbers 0-13 (alone or on disks or shields), papoose, pocket watch, sailing ship, sword, teddy bear, totem pole, and train.
Like Sulphides, the so-called Paperweight marbles were formed one at a time by the single gather method, and therefore have only single pontils. All Paperweight marbles are very rare.
Paperweight marbles have transparent glass with flecks of colored glass (usually white, pink, yellow, and/or green) forming a layer near the bottom of the marble (just above the pontil). The base glass is typically clear, though colored glass examples occur, yet only extremely rarely.
Millefiori marbles are a type of Paperweight marble in which instead of having flecks of glass there will be a layer of millefiori canes. These are harder to find than regular paperweight marbles and in fact are among the most valuable of all hand made marbles.
Millefiori Paperweight Marble
Though slags are traditionally thought of as mostly machine made types, most of the earliest "transitional" marbles, that is to say those made partially by hand and partially by machine, as well as some hand made marbles, are slag-types.
Hand Made Slags
Hand made slags can either be those drawn off a cane (two pontil examples) or formed by the single gather method (single pontil examples). The latter should not be confused with Transitional Slags, which also have single pontils. Most hand made Slags with two pontils are composed of black or purple glass mixed with white.
Single pontil hand made Slags differ from most other slag-type marbles. First, they employ different colors, not the dark colors often found in early Slags but lighter ones, with green being most prevalent. These base colors are more translucent than transparent. Furthermore, rather than having white as the secondary color, they usually contain yellow swirls or rarely another color, such as purple. Such slags appear to be known mostly from examples excavated at German glassworks sites.
Single Pontil Hand Made Slag
Single Pontil Hand Made Slag
Single Pontil Hand Made Slag
Leighton Transitional Slags
Leighton Transitional Slags are single pontil marbles attributed to manufacture by James Harvey Leighton. Leighton, whose family had been in the glass industry for at least three generations, first produced marbles at the Iowa City Flint Glass Manufacturing Company between 1880-1882. Subsequently, he worked at a number of other American glassworks until settling in Akron along the Ohio River. In this region he established a number of small glass companies, none of which appear to have survived more than a couple years.
At one of these factories, the J.H. Leighton & Company, which was in operation during the second half of the 1890s, is probably the location where Leighton produced his marbles. Working with more than 20 different glass colors (including what is popularly known as "oxblood"), Leighton is believed to have been responsible for many or most of what are today referred to as "Ground Pontil Transitionals." These marbles usually have a characteristic "nine"-shaped swirl on the pole opposite the pontil, with a "tail" wrapping around the marble to terminate at the pontil. Most Leighton marbles contain oxblood, the invention of which is often credited to Leighton, though some German marbles with oxblood predating Leighton's work have been unearthed.
It should be noted that though most Ground Pontil Transitionals are attributed to manufacture in America by Leighton, some have recently been dug from former glassworks sites in Lauscha, Germany, suggesting that perhaps the technique for producing these marbles was picked up by Leighton and others by German artisans.
Leighton Transitional Oxblood Slag
Leighton Transitional Oxblood Slag
Leighton Transitional Oxblood Slag
Navarre Transitional Slags
The Navarre Glass Marble and Specialty Company operated in Navarre, Ohio, around the close of the nineteenth century (ca. 1896-1901). While this company may have produced small numbers of Sulphides and German-type swirls, they were responsible mostly for Transitional Slags. These slags, which like other Transitional types, possess one pontil. The base glass is usually purple, with green and amber less commonly found, and as is the trait of all slags white glass is mixed in.
Most Transitional marbles attributed to Navarre have white swirls that form loops originating and ending at the pontil. However, research has shown that marbles from this factory will also display the "nine and tail" swirl formation that is so often considered a characteristic of M.F. Christensen slags.
Navarre Transitional Slag
M.F. Christensen Transitional Slags
The M.F. Christensen and Son Company operated from 1904-1917, and produced not only slags but also several other types of marbles. Though technically "Transitional" because they were gathered by hand but rounded by machine, most collectors group them with other machine made marbles, and therefore that is how I've discussed them. You can find out more about this early American factory at the M.F. Christensen Identification Page.
Christensen Agate Transitional Slags
Though Christensen Agate is known best for its beautiful machine made marbles such as Flame Swirls, Guineas, and Striped Opaques, the earliest marbles from this company were hand-gathered and therefore Transitional. These marbles will include not only Slags, but also swirls (including the American Agate). Like M.F. Christensen marbles before them, Transitional Christensen Agate specimens will exhibit the characteristic "nine and tail" common to hand-gathered marbles.
Miscellaneous Transitional Slags
When unidentifiable as to manufacturer, Transitional Slags are categorized by a taxonomy that defines them by pontil treatment. Though useful in placing them into neatly fitting categories, there is nothing heuristically meaningful about such classification because it merely reflects the skill, time, and care put into finishing a marble. Slags with different types of pontils could have been made by the same factory and even, theoretically, the same worker. The same holds true for handmade marbles, which evince a variety of pontil styles, though it should be emphasized that some research has demonstrated overall changes in the finishing technique of handmade marbles through time.
With this said, the following discussion details each of the seven recognized styles of Transitional Slags as relates to their pontil type.
Regular Pontil Transitional Slags have single pontils that look just like the ordinary pontils on hand made marbles. That is, the pontils are rough areas that have not been further refined after the marble was cut from the punty. In fact, these are probably single-gather marbles and not "Transitional" in the true sense of the word. Many marbles thought to be Navarre, however, manifest this sort of pontil.
Ground Pontil Transitional Slags are basically the same as Regular Pontil Transitional Slags but which have had the pontil ground, which results in a faceted appearance. Sometimes such marbles contain oxblood, and these are often thought to have been manufactured by James Leighton.
Melted Pontil Transitional Slags, like those with a ground pontil, may represent an upward progression in the care taken to put a final touch on a single-gather marble. The single pontil will not be as evident as on most other types of Transitional Slags and will be evident as an irregularly smooth area on one pole. Melted Pontil Transitional Slags may exhibit either the looping swirl pattern of Navarre marbles or the "nine and tail" of other hand-gathered types.
Pinch Pontil Transitional Slags often have the classic "nine and tail" swirl of hand-gathered marbles and a pontil that may be hard to see but which will be present in the form of a tiny straight line. Unlike the "cut-off" line seen on M.F. Christensen Slags, such pontils will be raised above the surrounding surface and therefore discernible to the touch. It is generally believed that Pinch Pontils result from the shearing process of early marble machinery, and not the result of having been cut by hand. Thus, they are thought to be American, circa 1910-1925.
Fold Pontil Transitional Slags are relatively rare and may represent a poorly executed form of the Melted Pontil Transitional Slag. Typically, the single pontil on such specimens is characterized by an area of glass that was partially melted at the cut-off point. Incompletely melted, this glass may be of varying length, sometimes long enough to wrap partially around the circumference of the marble, forming a raised "tail" on the surrounding glass surface.
Pinpoint Pontil Transitional Slags are similar to Fold Pontil Transitional Slags, but instead of there being a "finger" or "tail" of unmelted glass, the unmelted area will form a tiny point that is barely visible. These are among the rarest of the pontil types of Transitional Slags.
Crease Pontil Transitional Slags are perhaps the most common of the Transitional types. Some argue for American origins, while others insist these are of Japanese manufacture. Whichever the case, they show up more more frequently than the other types. Common colors are aqua, dark blue, amber, and green, though a few other colors have shown up. Oxblood may be present, but very rarely. Some Crease Pontil Transitionals are better classified as swirls, since they have an opaque white base. These almost always have red swirls, though other colors may include blue, green, brown, aqua, or yellow. Whether a slag or swirl, the secondary color usually forms "nine and tail" swirl. The "tail" terminates at a pontil, seen as an uneven crease, both longer and more evident than either marbles with "cut-off" lines or Pinch Pontils.
Crease Pontil Slag
Crease Pontil Slag
Crease Pontil Swirl