Gazing balls have as varied and colorful a history as they are themselves. The first recorded history of these hand-blown glass garden accents dates back to the 13th century where they were made in Venice. In 1612 an Italian priest, Antonio Neri named them "Spheres of Light". They have been known by many names - Gazing Globes, Rose Balls, Good Luck Balls, Victorian Balls, Witch Balls, and Garden Globes. Also called "Globes of Happiness", they have been used symbolically as wedding gifts - said to bring the bride happiness in her new home. In the 16th century, Francis Bacon stated that a proper garden would have round, colored balls for the sun to play upon. They gained their current widespread popularity during Victorian times, being used both indoors, as well as in the garden. One interior use was in dining rooms and on sideboards. Placed in such a way, the servant could gaze discreetly into the ball and see who may need a refill without standing and staring throughout the meal.
Most commonly they are known to fend off misfortune, illness and evil, and to bestow happiness to the owner. The original Victorian Gazing Balls were small (4 inches) hanging balls of either gold or blue glass. They were hung in the front room windows to repel witches, the belief being the witch would see her reflection, and being repulsed by it, would leave.
A collection of lore from different sources includes the following:
Place the ball close to the front door of a house so that if a witch comes calling, she will see her reflection in the ball and stay there to stare at herself.
Called "Garden Gazers" in the South, they were placed at the gate to the front yard so that those sitting on the porches could see who was coming, and have time to either go in and close the door, or go to prepare a glass of iced tea for the guest.
Used in Victorian gardens, a young woman would gaze into them, in hopes to catch a glimpse of her future husband.