Gems of the Ocean: Collecting Glass Fishing Floats

Lovers of the sea or fishing will enjoy these items. The stunning glass balls come in shades of sea green and blue and make excellent collectors’ items, whether they’re being collected for the sake of beach combing or for decorating. They’re wonderful in displays of the sea-centric type.

Though the floats are often associated with Japan, they got their start in a different country. Norway started producing them around 1840.

The primary use of these glass fishing floats was to float groups of fishnets in the ocean. Even to this day, beachcombers find glass balls that float on shore from way back when fisherman set them out to sea. Imagine finding a glass fishing ball from the 19th century that floated on shore: you would be holding a piece of fishing history in your hands!

Via the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Via the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: two large glass fishing floats.

Japanese fishermen started making glass floats in the early 20th century. Japan’s close proximity to the sea and its large fishing industry allowed for extensive production of the glass floats.

Soon, most any country with a fishing industry had replaced their wood or cork floats with glass.

Want to collect your own glass fishing floats? Start with this basic question: What makes a float authentic? Many replicas have been created thanks to these beauties’ popularity, but they’ve never made it to the sea. (Source)

Look for bubbles. If the glass doesn’t have bubbles, it’s likely fake.

Also, check for wear. If the float looks new without any wear, it’s unlikely it has seen a fishing boat before.

Plus, most fishing floats will have a uniform shape.

Do you collect glass fishing floats? Do you go beach combing for them? Let us know in the comments!

Navigating the Seas

What is a sextant?

It looks like something from a Jules Verne novel – but this tool is pure nonfiction.

Long before GPS and other electronic tools took over in navigation, ship captains had to measure their location differently.

A sunset on a beach in Florida. Photo by Christopher Hollis, CC 3.0

A sunset on a beach in Florida. Photo by Christopher Hollis, CC 3.0

That’s where the sextant comes in. It looks complicated to modern eyes, but navigators were experts at each technical part. How does a sextant work? At the most basic explanation, a sextant measures the altitude of the sun or other celestial bodies above the horizon. It uses two mirrors; you look through one mirror at the horizon, while the other mirror moves on an arm to where the sun reflects off of it. Then the angle is read on the scale. This information is used to find the boat’s position on a chart.


The sextant is still sometimes considered an excellent backup on a ship for navigation, since unlike most modern navigational tools, it doesn’t run on electricity. It’s also a very accurate tool.

The sextant in the pictures is from 1837. It’s in remarkable condition and is even in its original box.


The label (a very pretty label, if only they made them like that today!) says: “the Sextant No. 19595 named Henry Hughes & Son LTD. of 6” radius & reading to 10” has been examined & found satisfactory.”

This site has a fun project to build your own sextant!