At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Water globes, also known as snow globes, are decorative spheres made of glass or plastic. The evolution of these decorations is believed to have stemmed from glass paperweights, though the first glass water globe was made in the late 1880s to commemorate the 1889 Paris Exhibition. It had a ceramic base, and featured a tiny model of the Eiffel Tower and "snow" that swirled around the tower when shaken. It was a huge success as a novel souvenir, and launched the decoration's enduring popularity.
Water globes were considered objects d' arte by the Victorians of England, who are known to have filled every possible space in the home with some sort of decorative knickknack. In America, they caught on during the late 1920s when an inventor named Joseph Garaja of Pittsburgh filed a patent for a process to mass-produce them.
Since then, sales of water globes has remained relatively constant. People use them as decorative items to liven up their homes or offices. Many are given as gifts to mark a special occasion, and they come in virtually any motif. Holiday water globes remind of us of the magic of the season when we were children; those depicting a certain place conjure memories of that special trip; those purchased or given as gifts at a special time, such as the birth of a child, bring back a flood of emotions; and those that highlight a particularly personal interest, such as the subject of a hobby or favored pastime, delight us with a tangible expression of what makes us unique.
Many people start a collection of water globes, enchanted by the first one they acquire. Collectors may have hundreds in their collections, and the motifs included can focus on one particular subject, or run the gamut. Water globes occupy a major category in the collectibles market, and many collectors are always on the lookout for rare and antique globes, which can be quite valuable.
Today's water globes often come with built-in music boxes or an entertainment feature such as a game or task. For example, some challenge the holder to place a ring around an object within the globe by maneuvering the ring through shaking the water.
While the spheres of these globes are normally glass or plastic, bases are made of a wide variety of materials, including wood, brass, ceramics, plastic or glass. Care must be taken to keep them out of harm's way for logical reasons, but their actual care is fairly simple. They need to be dusted regularly and vacuumed occasionally. When they need a deeper cleaning, wash them with a soft cloth soaked in water mixed with a mild detergent, or use the spray-type of window cleaner.