Gazing Ball History

12 things you may not know about the popular lawn ornament.
Gazing Ball

Gazing Ball

Gazing balls have served many uses beyond the ornamental.

Photo by: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo by Mick Telkamp

Gazing balls have served many uses beyond the ornamental.

First introduced in 13th century Venice by artisan glass blowers, gazing balls are now a common sight in yards and gardens as decoration. And the reflective spheres have served many purposes over the years. Those colorful globes may bring an attractive bit of flair to the garden, but did you know the popular lawn ornament has also been used to ward off evil, bring good luck, spy on young lovers and alert a considerate host when guests might need attention?

12 things you may not know about the “Globe of Happiness”:

  1. The ubiquitous lawn and garden ornament goes by many names, including lawn balls, yard globes, witch balls, fairy balls, mirror balls and globes of happiness.
  2. The shiny spheres range widely in size, from less than two inches to over two feet.
  3. The reflective globes found popularity in Victorian England, where they were displayed inside affluent homes.
  4. “Mad” King Ludwig of Bavaria so loved gazing balls he had them produced in many sizes to be hung in trees, floated in ponds and displayed atop ornate pedestals around his castle. King Ludwig’s obsession led to the use of glass baubles as Christmas tree ornaments.
  5. After falling out of favor in the 19th century, gazing balls enjoyed a resurgence in the U.S. in the early 20th century as a sign of wealth.
  6. Southern hosts would place the reflective spheres on porch rails to easily spot an iced tea glass that might need a refill.
  7. “Witch Balls” were once used as protection from evil spirits, as witches would catch sight of their visage and either be trapped inside or frightened off, depending on the folklore.
  8. A kinder version of the tale suggests fairy globes would attract friendly spirits, bringing good fortune to the home.
  9. If a fragile, hand-blown gazing ball is cracked or its seal is broken, the spell is lost as moisture fogs the reflection.
  10. Once known as “butler balls,” the reflective globe would be placed strategically on a dining room sideboard so Victorian Era servants could remain outside the room and still see when service was required.
  11. Indoor gazing balls were also used to unobtrusively chaperone young couples during courtship.
  12. Although many are still made from delicate blown glass, some modern gazing balls are manufactured of reflective metal for durability.

Most gazing balls are now used as outdoor decoration. A colorful gazing ball doesn’t just add style, these colorful globes will also attract birds to the yard, if positioned conspicuously. Place gazing balls in low-traffic areas to avoid breakage. Glass gazing balls should be stored indoors during winter months to prevent cracking and the escape of captured witches.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Make a Water Garden in a Flower Pot

For a low-maintenance container garden, make a mini pond in a pot.

Create a Garden Cement Leaf

Sharon Eide embellishes her garden decoration with metallic paints.

Sea Turtle Garden Sculpture

Mark Sybirski cuts steel into the shape of a sea turtle and sand dollar for his garden art sculpture.

How to Make a Holiday Folk Art Birdhouse

Kriste Hennick decorates her folk art birdhouses to reflect the holidays.

Cool Plants From Around the World

These six unusual plants can add an international flair to your garden.

How to Start a Community Garden

Expert Bill Dawson offers tips on starting a shared community garden in your neighborhood.

Garden From HGTV Green Home 2009

Saving space, increasing yields and conserving water were at the top of the list when planning the backyard gardening space.

Party Garden

Favorite plants and old standbys are seen in this Georgia garden.

Napa Country Garden

Carole and Keni Kent's Napa Valley garden is filled with thriving plants.

On TV

Log Cabin Living

6:30am | 5:30c

Log Cabin Living

7:30am | 6:30c

Desert Flippers

12:30pm | 11:30c

Desert Flippers

1:30pm | 12:30c

Desert Flippers

2:30pm | 1:30c

Desert Flippers

3:30pm | 2:30c

Flip or Flop

4:30pm | 3:30c

Flip or Flop

5:30pm | 4:30c

Flip or Flop

6:30pm | 5:30c

Flip or Flop

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Flip or Flop

8pm | 7c

Flip or Flop

8:30pm | 7:30c

Flip or Flop Atlanta

9:30pm | 8:30c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

House Hunters

11:30pm | 10:30c

Flip or Flop Atlanta

12:30am | 11:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

House Hunters

2:30am | 1:30c

Flip or Flop

3:30am | 2:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.