A handmade marble is a thing of beauty and a technical feat of glasswork and art. While these marbles were made using the "mass production" techniques of the time, in reality each handmade marble is individually crafted by a person. This cannot be said for machine made marbles. Each handmade marble carries with it the individual stamp of the craftsman who created it. This is in the twist of the marble and in the design and the colors. The appeal of handmade marbles lies in their individuality. No two canes were the same, and no two marbles off the same rod are exactly the same. You cannot say that about most machine made marbles.
By definition, a handmade marble is a marble that was individually made by a craftsman. Non-glass handmade marbles have existed for almost as long as there have been children. During primitive and medieval times, these were rounded stone or clay marbles and they are not very collectible today. The handmade marbles sought after by today's collectors are those that were produced in Germany during the second half of the 19th Century and the first two decades of the 20th Century. (Some handmade marbles were produced in England and in the United States during the early 20th Century, but these represented a very tiny segment of the market compared to German marbles). German-made glass marbles represented the bulk of the marble market until the early 1920's. The supremacy of German marbles on the playing field finally ended during the early 1900's due to a combination of several factors. These include the American invention of mechanized marble production, the cut-off of German imports into the U.S. during World War I and the Fordney-McCumber Act tariffs of the early 1920's.
All handmade glass marbles have at least one pontil. This is the rough spot at the bottom pole of the marble where it was sheared off its glass cane or a punty.
Handmade marbles are generally classified as either cane-cut (sometimes called rod-cut) or as single-gather. Almost all handmade glass marbles are cane-cut marbles. This type of marble is sheared off the end of a long cane which contains the design of the marble and then is rounded. Single-gather marbles, on the other hand, are produced one at a time on the end of a punty. Handmade marbles can be further classified by the type and/or coloring of the design.
The production of handmade marbles (whether cane-cut or single-gather) was very labor-intensive. For example, the creation of a handmade swirl required between four and twelve separate manual steps. Single-gather marbles could require less steps, but only one marble was produced at a time, rather than a whole set of marbles off of one cane. As a result, far less handmade marbles exist than machine made marbles, which increases their value.
The earliest articles discussing marbles as a collectible were published in the mid-1960's. These articles all dealt with handmade marbles. Early marble collectors, and the hobby is really only about 35 years old, were only interested in handmade marbles. The earliest guide to marble collecting was Morrison and Terrison's Marbles-Identification and Price Guide, published in 1968, followed by Baumann's Collecting Antique Marbles, published in 1970. Both of these books classified handmade marbles, to almost the complete exclusion of machine made marbles.
The past decade has seen the handmade segment of the marble market mature. This side of the market has not been experiencing the volatility in price that we have seen in the machine made side of the market. This does not mean that hand made marbles do not go through price cycles. Different types of handmade marbles go in and out of favor with collectors, as their tastes change. But, the market has been much less volatile than the machine made market.
Latticinio core swirls are cane-cut marbles. The core consists of strands of colored rods that form a lattice-looking core when the marble is twisted off the cane. The most common core color is white, followed (in order of rarity) by yellow, orange, green, red, blue. Sometimes the strands are alternating colors (white and yellow or green being most common).
The core of a divided core swirl is formed by three or more separate bands. When the marble is twisted off the cane, the bands form a core with clear spaces in between each band. Four band cores are most common, followed by three band, six band and then five band. One band or two band cores would be called ribbon core swirls.
The core of a solid core swirl is formed by bands or strands of color that are placed so closely together that there are no clear spaces in the core in between. The core can be all the same color, usually white or yellow, or it can be a solid color with colored bands or stripes on it
The core of a ribbon core swirl is a wide, flat band of color in the center of a rod. This band is twisted when the marble is cut off the cane. The degree of twist will vary from perfectly flat (no twist) to three or four twists (creating a helix effect). The core of a ribbon core swirl is usually a solid color with several strands or bands of color on it. It will vary in thickness. The core can consist of one ribbon, which is called a single ribbon, or two ribbons, which is called a double ribbon. Double ribbon core swirls are slightly more common than single ribbon cores.
Joseph’s Coat swirls are swirls that have an outer layer of glass that is composed of different colored strands, placed very closely together. Generally, there are no clear spaces in between the strands. Some examples do have clear spaces, but these appear to be part of the design. There are usually some strands in the inner core that can be seen through the spaces.
Banded Swirls and Coreless Swirls are swirls that have an outer layer of bands or strands, but no inner core. These were intentionally made this way and are not errors. The outer layer on a banded swirl can be on the surface of the marble, or just under the surface. Generally marbles that look like they should have had a core are called Coreless swirls.
A Gooseberry Swirl is a transparent glass swirl with equidistantly spaced white subsurface strands.
A Caramel Swirl is a marble with a dark transparent brown base glass and opaque white bands or swirls in it.
Custard Swirls and butterscotch swirls have wide translucent brown/pink strands on the surface. Custard swirls have a semi-opaque creamy yellow base. Butterscotch swirls have a semi-opaque creamy brown-yellow base.
Cornhusk Swirls are a light transparent honey yellow glass with a single wide white subsurface band.
A Peppermint Swirl is another specific type of banded swirl that has subsurface bands. The marble has two wide opaque white bands, alternating with two thinner translucent blue bands. There can be anywhere from one to six pink bands on the white.
A Clambroth is a swirl that has an opaque base with colored strands on the surface. The strands are generally equidistantly spaced. The base color is usually opaque white. Some opalescent bases have been found. The most common colors for strands are pink, blue or green.. A clambroth that has strands of more than one color, usually alternating, is called "multicolored". These are rarer than the single-color marbles. Marbles with a base glass color that is not white, usually black or blue are also rare.
END OF DAY:
An End of Day Cloud has a transparent base glass, usually clear. The marble can have either a colored base core or no base core.. On the core are flecks of colored glass that were not stretched when the marble was drawn off the rod. This is different than an End of Day Onionskin, where the flecks of color did stretch. Generally, the more colors, the more valuable the marble. Blue or red flecks on a white or yellow background is the most common. Yellow or green flecks, or a different colored background, are rarer.
An End of Day Onionskin has a transparent base glass, usually clear. The marble can have either a colored core or a transparent clear core. On the core are flecks of colored glass that were stretched when the marble was made. Generally, the base color is white or yellow, and the flecks are red, blue or green. Other colors are rarer.
An End of Day Paneled Cloud or Onionskin is a cloud or onionskin that has two or more distinct groups of colors. The most common have four panels. Two of the panels are stretched red flecks on a white or yellow background, alternating with two panels of green or blue flecks on the background not used in the first panels. Panels of one colored flecks alternating with panels of different colored flecks, but all on the same color background are also fairly common. Other color combinations are rarer. About 90% of the paneled onionskins have four panels. Other numbers of panels are rarer.
A Banded Lutz is a marble with a single-colored base glass and two sets of two bands alternating with two lutz bands. Lutz is finely ground copper flakes or goldstone. The lutz bands are usually edged by opaque white strands.
An Onionskin Lutz is a marble that has an end of day onionskin core with lutz bands and/or lutz sprinkled on the core.
A Ribbon Lutz is a naked ribbon core swirl with lutz on both edges of the ribbon. There are single ribbon examples and double ribbon examples. No examples are known to exist that have an outer layer of strands or bands.
An Indian Lutz has an opaque black base with three or four lutz bands on the surface. The bands are edged with colored strands. They can also be found with colored bands and lutz bands on the surface.
A Mist Lutz is a transparent clear base with a core of a transparent color. There is a layer of lutz just below the surface of the marble, floating between the core and the surface.
A Banded Opaque has either an opaque or semi-opaque base glass. The surface of the marble has colored strands, bands or stretched colored flecks on it. A "swirl-type" banded opaque has colored strands and bands that are unbroken from pole to pole. An "end-of-day-type" banded opaque has bands of stretched colored flecks on the surface. The stretched flecks generally are not continuous from pole to pole.
An Indian is a marble that has an opaque black base. On the surface are bands consisting of colored strands or stretched colored flecks. A "swirl-type" Indian has colored strands that run unbroken from pole to pole. Usually there is a colored band that consists of subsurface opaque white strands covered by a transparent color. An "end-of-day-type" Indian has bands of stretched colored flecks that do not run continuously from pole to pole.
A Mist is a transparent or translucent base with colored flecks of transparent or translucent glass stretched on the surface or just below it. The stretched colors can form bands or can completely cover the marble. However, the colors must be transparent or translucent, so that light shines through the marble.
A Submarine is a difficult marble to categorize. They are cross between an End of Day Paneled Onionskin, an Indian, a Mist and a Banded Swirl. The base glass is always transparent. Either clear or colored (usually blue or green) . There are two end of day panels of stretched colored flecks on the surface of the marble. These panels are on opposite sides and usually each covers about one-quarter of the marble. In the two resultant clear panels, there are stretched colored flecks below the surface of the marble. This creates a multi-layer effect.
A Mica marble is a transparent base glass with mica flakes in it.
A Slag is a marble that is made from a cane that is a mixture of black and white glass. Rather than being a layered cane, like a Swirl, slags are drawn off of a cane that is a mixture of two colors.
An Opaque marble is made from a rod of a single opaque color.
A Clearie marble is made from a rod of a single transparent color.
A Sulphide has a transparent base with a ceramic-type figure inserted inside it. They are single-gather, single-pontil marbles.