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Glass Floats

Updated on July 26, 2014

Collectible Antique Glass Fishing Floats And Glass Floats Decor

As weird as it may sound, there was a time were glass floats were used to keep fishing nets afloat. Glass floats were designed to be hollow and as they were full of air they were incredibly buoyant. Nowadays, these beautiful and somewhat delicate pieces have been replaced by disposable plastic floats. Cheaper to make, easier to handle.

But in recent years, glass fishing floats have been given a new lease of life by collectors who see the beauty and craftsmanship that went into making them, and interior designers who use them to decorate their homes.

Shown here: fishing floats by Jon Olav under CC BY 2.0

glass float
glass float

Humble Beginnings

A brief history of glass floats

Although glass fishing floats were manufactured around the world, most people accredit their invention to the Norwegians who were known to have produced small egg shaped glass fishing floats in 1840. However, it didn't take long for glass floats to catch on internationally and by the turn on the 20th century, glass fishing floats were being mass produced especially in Japan. With the rise of large scale commercial fishing, the need for floats was high.

Early glass floats were handmade by skilled glassblowers, many of whom used recycled glass. In fact, in Japan old sake bottles were frequently used by craftsmen to create glass floats. Typically glass floats made from sake bottles would be green as sake bottles were almost always green. However, the Japanese managed to manufacture a variety of different color fishing floats. Red floats being the most coveted, as gold was used to produce their unique color.

To create a glass float, the craftsmen would attach a piece of glass to the end of a blowpipe. They would then heat the glass to ensure it was pliable before carefully blowing through the end of the blowpipe to give the fishing float its distinctive round shape. Once a craftsman attained his desired shape he would carefully remove it and store it a cooling room.

Many glass floats bear a maker mark and some are extremely rare and collectible.

Image credit: fishing net float by GollyGforce under CC BY 2.0

Glass Floats In The Making - Glass fishing floats were made the same way by skilled glass blowers

glass floats
glass floats

Collectible Glass Fishing Floats

The rise of the collectors

Although glass fishing floats are no longer used by fishermen, they are in high demand by collectors. One reason why collectors have fallen in love with glass fishing floats it that every float has a unique tale to tell.

As an example, some glass floats were branded with a mark of ownership when they were crafted, while others have been marked by natural etchings as a result of being through surf or sand. Collectors prefer to collect vintage glass fishing floats and some will even specialized their collection to floats produced by a single country. Japanese fishing floats are very popular.

Glass fishing floats are so popular that there are now companies which mass produce replicas. These are great for home decor, but a shame when they are labeled as vintage and antique trying to lure buyers into paying too much. Make sure you buy from a trusted source.

Fishing floats can reach high prices, especially for the more unique colors. Recently on ebay, a Cranberry Colored Glass Fishing Float sold for 525$. But a young collector can also get real vintage pieces for his collection under 50$. Or free if you are lucky at beach combing....

Shown here: fishing floats by JeffDSamuels71 / iStockphoto

2 Books To Get Your Started On These Glass Floats

Learn more about these mysterious balls from the sea

Beachcombing for Japanese Glass Floats
Beachcombing for Japanese Glass Floats

266 pages. this book is like the bible of Japanese glass floats. Lots of pictures and a comprehensive list of trademarks.

 
Glass Fishing Floats of the World (Second Edition)
Glass Fishing Floats of the World (Second Edition)

This is a price list. Obviously pricing glass fishing floats is subjective but it give a basis to work with as a seller or buyer.

 

Where To Find Antique Glass Fishing Floats

Buy rare glass floats

If you want to jump start your collection or add rare and unusual glass floats to it, online auctions are the place to check. You will have access to sellers and collectors all over the world. Just make sure you know your stuff and check your seller feedback. Beware of ''vintage style'', ''retro'' and seller mumble jumble trying to sell you a cheap China made modern reproduction. Be especially careful when dealing in the rare colors and makers.

Antique shops and collectors markets are also place you can find fishing floats.

Going to the beach is the most interesting thing to do but in most case you will end up with lots of sea glass and no glass floats.

Lot Of 3 Fishing Floats From Alaska

Amazon is filled with ''vintage inspired'' and modern reproduction of fishing floats, but from time to time you will find some real vintage ones. This seller has a few lots available.

Sea Glass Globes, set of 3
Sea Glass Globes, set of 3

3 small floats. These are authentic, not some reproductions

 

See A Collector's Glass Floats Treasures

''Japanese Glass Fishing Floats'' is a selling pitch used very often to describe modern mass produced decor pieces. Although very cute and colorful, they are NOT real vintage / antique Japanese floats.

Creative Ways To Display Your Glass Fishing Floats - Or buy cheaper mass produced modern glass floats for the same effect

When it comes to decorating with glass fishing floats you're only limited by your imagination as there are countless ways to creatively display these beautiful nautical treasures.

  1. Enchanted tree: Glass fishing floats come in a variety of colors, although green and blue floats are the most common. If you're lucky enough to have a tree in your yard, simply use thick rope to tie individual floats to different branches. The combination of colors you use is up to you.
  2. Floating floats: glass fishing floats can be used to draw attention to an existing pond or fountain. Simply place a few fishing floats in shallow water. The beauty of this idea is that the fishing floats will float around the pool or fountain on their own accord. If you enjoying hosting parties perhaps considering adding a few floating candles to your pond or fountain as they'll illuminate and bring out the colors of your glass floats.

    However, you don't need to splash out on a new fountain to show off your glass fishing float collection as you can get the same effect by filling an old vintage bathtub or an extra large flower pot with water.

  3. Treasure chest: simply place a large wooden chest, box or basket in the corner of your lounge or in the foyer of your home. Leave the chest's lid open and fill it to the brim with some of your favorite glass fishing floats. This idea is bound to be a hit with both children and adults alike.

    If you're having a little difficulty hunting down a treasure chest it may be worth rummaging through an antique store. Alternatively, you could make your own treasure chest using pieces of drift wood that wash up on your local beach.

  4. Bold centerpiece: if you love entertaining, perhaps consider using glass floats as a unique centerpiece for your dining table. Simply place a few glass floats on a large dish. For an eye catching centerpiece perhaps opt for a brass dish or tray. Alternatively, consider using a glass dish for a more contemporary look.
  5. Hanging from hooks: you can't go wrong with this fuss free idea. Simply attach a large hook to your wall or a fence and then hang a glass float from it. As an example evenly space out hooks down your hallway and then hang a different color glass float from each one. Alternatively consider hanging a glass fishing float from the side of a shed to give your backyard a rustic nautical look.
  6. Garden path: while you could line your garden path or your driveway with stones, it would be much more interesting to line your path with glass fishing floats. If you like you could even experiment with patterns e.g. one green float, followed by a blue one and so on.

I came across my first glass floats 2 years ago in Bretagne, France. At time I had no idea what it was. All I saw was some broken glass sitting among old discarded fishnet. Had it been intact, I would have picked it up. Then a few months ago I came across an ebay auction for some rather expensive Japanese glass floats while looking at vintage glass. And then I knew that the broken glass I saw was not just some old junk. I collect sea glass and sand and I am now adding a few fishing floats to my collection.

Glass Floats: Treasures Of The Sea Or Just Some Old Junk? - I find beauty in these fishing glass floats

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    • profile image

      julieannbrady 4 years ago

      I love these! You know, years ago, down our basement in Willoughby, Ohio, we had nets on the wall in a nautical theme with the pool table ... my mom had a few glass floats in that design.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      That's fascinating. I would have never guessed that these existed, and I love fishing. I have heard a story of light bulbs being used but thought that that was an urban myth.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      Wow! I would love to have some of these floats for my coastal dcor.

    • bethann21 profile image

      bethann21 4 years ago

      We used to find these along the Oregon Coastline many many years ago.

    • profile image

      JayRockins 4 years ago

      These are really neat. Cool lens!

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I love the old glass floats they are a beautiful part of our history. I often wonder what we would see if the ocean ever could be displaced. There would sure be some amazing items preserved there.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      They are beautiful, and you do a great job presenting them!

    • profile image

      DecoratingMom411 4 years ago

      What a wonderful piece of art! I love the idea of this craft. :) Nice lens. Thanks for sharing

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 4 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I have two large green floats my husband bought for my birthday years ago. Love them!

    • makorip lm profile image

      makorip lm 4 years ago

      I have a large Japanese green float sitting perfectly next to my reef aquarium. Good lens.

    • HardyGirl profile image

      HardyGirl 4 years ago

      I've had one of these for many years, hanging in macrame that I wove around it. It's quite a conversation piece - and looks gorgeous in front of the window. Nice lens!

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 4 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I grew up near the ocean (Rhode Island) and, when I go back to visit my hometown, I still see the house with all the glass floats and lobster traps in the yard. And now I know much more than I ever did about those pretty glass orbs, including the bit about the brands. And I had no idea these were being mass-produced as replicas. I'm quite sure, though, that the collection I've seen back in R.I. is made up of the real deal.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      These are lovely....I really like your list of creative ways to display them! These are such a find for decorating. Love this lens.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 4 years ago

      Glass never stopped to amaze me.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      My mother has a small collection of glass floats. Gorgeous with the light on them!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      These glass floats are just so pretty! I had no idea of these either. Pinned to my collectibles board, and blessed.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 4 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Wow fascinating! I had no idea there were fishing glass floats never mind collectible ones!

    • Mistl profile image

      Mistl 4 years ago

      I love glass floats. I have a green onee myself which is really lovely.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 4 years ago from Scotland

      These glass floats are beautiful since I live by the sea, we do see more of the plastic ones being washed up! But I would love some of these around my garden, they are very unusual

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