Beginning New Year’s Day and continuing through the months of January and February the Jekyll Island Authority hosts “Island Treasures on Jekyll Island,” a unique treasure hunting experience on Jekyll Island. The treasures are handcrafted glass floats sought after by Jekyll Island guests since 2002. Each unique design is stamped with the year of the hunt on its base. Anywhere from two to five of these beautiful pieces of hand blown glass are hidden daily by volunteers (called Beach Buddies) all over the island on public land – not just on the beaches. On Saturdays and Sundays the number of floats hidden doubles, increasing everyone’s chances of finding a treasure of their own. Lucky treasure hunters can register their Island Treasure at the Jekyll Island Visitor Information Center to receive a biography of the artist and a certificate of authenticity. The Center is open Monday – Saturday 10 am -5 pm & Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm.
Norway is believed to have been the first country to start production and use of glass fishing floats. Christopher Faye, a Norwegian merchant from Bergen, is credited for their invention in the early 1840s and in 1841 the floats are mentioned in the production registry for Hadelands Glassverk as a new type of production. However, some researchers and collectors believe that glass floats had already been in use in Norway and other Scandinavian countries for many years before then. Some of these earlier glass floats – from the Schimmelmanns Glassverk (1779 – 1832) – were very thick dark brown bottle glass, leading to some speculation that early glass bottle factories were the earliest producers of these floats.
The old glass floats had to have a net around them, likely made by the fishermen or their wife and children during the long winter evenings. The knitting started just below the middle of the float, working toward the top. Then the float was turned upside down, finishing the work on the “bottom side”. It looks quite simple, but it took a lot of practice to knit and properly knot the rounded glass orb.
Japan apparently started using the glass floats as early as 1910 and by the 1940s, wood or cork floats had been replaced by glass throughout much of Japan, Europe, Russia, and North America. In the U.S., during the 1930s or 1940s the Owens-Illinois Glass Company (Diamond and oval with I); Northwestern Glass Company, Seattle, Washington (“NW” mark) ; Corning Glass Works; and Crystallite Products, Glendale, California, manufactured machine-made floats, which are usually found in clear glass. Some made by Northwestern Glass are found in amber. Today, the majority of glass fishing floats that are found washed up on West Coast beaches in Oregon and Washington state, originated in Japan because of its large deep sea fishing industry which made extensive use of these floats. Japan and other Asian countries still use the glass floats today, finding them to be more economical than plastic or Styrofoam.
For the Jekyll Island Treasure Hunt in January and February, artists from across the country are commissioned to recreate these glass floats using the same techniques that have been used for 2000 years, while lending their own creative vision with colorful swirls and patterns. The treasures are beautifully displayed in the Visitors Center and can be purchased should you not be lucky in your own quest to find them while out and about on this beautiful barrier island.
But searching for these treasures has its own advantage. There is so much to enjoy on the island while you are looking. Stop at the Visitors Center first and pick up a map. Try looking around the historical millionaires cottages, the porches and rocking chairs. The Morgan Center, the Jekyll Island Club grounds. Visit the Georgia Turtle Center. Peruse the base and low branches of the beautiful live oak trees. Ride a bike to Andrews Picnic Area or Clam Creek. Check out South Dunes Picnic Area and the Convention Center. Haunt the Horton House and the burial grounds across the street by the marsh. Walk out to the Rah Bar for lunch or a drink. You can’t go wrong looking on the beaches (above the high tide line, but not in the dunes, please). The bike trails, the soccer complex, the Nature Center. And most of all, have fun and enjoy your time there as if it’s the best place to be for the day. Because it always is the best place to be for today.
All photos by Nancy Kirkpatrick Photography except for:
- “Netting Kept Floats in Place”
- “Beach Combing for Treasures”