The chief place of the manufacture of “marbles,” those little round pieces of stone which contribute so largely to the enjoyment of “Young America,” is at Oberstein, on the Nahe, in Germany, where there are large agate-mills and quarries, the refuse of which is carefully turned to good paying account by being made into the small balls employed by experts to knuckle with, which are mostly sent to the American market.
The substance used in Saxony is a hard, calcareous stone, which is first broken into blocks, nearly square, by blows with a hammer. These are thrown by the one hundred or two hundred into a small sort of mill, which is formed of a flat, stationary slab of stone, with a number of concentric furrows upon its face. A block of oak, or other hard wood, of the same diametric size, is placed over the small stones and partly resting upon them.
This block or log is kept revolving while water flows upon the stone slab. In about fifteen minutes the stones are turned to spheres, and then, being fit for sale, are henceforth called “marbles.”
One establishment, containing only three of these rude mills, will turn out full sixty thousand “marbles” in each week. Agates are made into “marbles,” at Oberstein, by first chipping the pieces nearly round with a hammer, handled by a skillful workman, and then wearing down the edges upon the surface of a large grind-stone.