Hourglasses Combine History, Practicality, and Art

clocks and hourglasses

Time waits for no man, so the saying goes. But, some of us know that watching time can be a fascinating diversion, especially watching the sands of beautiful hourglasses trickle from the upper chamber to the lower one.

The hourglass was a symbol of not just the passage of time, but mortality and the brevity of life, and was commonly depicted on pirate flags to create fear in the pirate’s intended victims. Many modern items still use the symbol of the hour-glass to depict or illustrate the passage of time.

The hourglass is considered to be of European origin. Also called sand clocks, hourglasses are believed to have been developed around the 8th century. An advancement over the sundial and water clock, which had their disadvantages, hour-glasses were smaller than other devices for keeping time and were the most dependable method of time-keeping for many applications. Hourglasses were very popular onboard ships, as they were accurate and not easily affected by the motion of the ship, no matter how violently the ship rocked.

Sand-clocks continued to be popular for hundreds of years, up to and beyond the advent of mechanical clocks, because they were much smaller, less expensive and did not require exotic components to produce. The sand clock was a standard in churches, which used them to time sermons and other religious ceremonies. They were a staple in homes, used for setting cooking times. Workplaces used them to time work breaks. Sand clocks were finally replaced by mechanical clocks at the beginning of the 16th century when they began to decrease in size and increase in accuracy.

The material in sand clocks was often not sand at all; other materials were deemed more reliable. Pulverized eggshell, marble and metal oxides often were combined to create the “sand” used for hourglasses, as well as a variety of other mixtures. Today, most sand clocks are filled with tiny glass beads, called ballotini. The shape of the beads allows for even flow through the narrow aperture of the hourglass.

Although considered antiquated, the timeless beauty of the hourglass endures to this day. This is elegantly illustrated by our authentic antique reproduction hourglasses. Guests to your home are sure to be mesmerized by watching the sand slowly, inexorably trickle from one chamber to the other. People seem to be fascinated with the concept of time and man’s never-ending aspiration to build devices that could accurately record and keep pace with it.

Elegant in design, practical in purpose, our antique reproduction 30-minute hourglass on a stand and three-minute pocket sandglasses are constructed with high-quality materials in a variety of finishes for enduring use. You would be proud to display these elegant timepieces in any room in your home.

Sailing ships were on a 24-hour schedule. A crew divided into three groups worked four-hour shifts, with a couple of two-hour dog-watches in between to break the schedule. Only in extreme conditions when ‘all hands’ were called on deck, was it four hours on, eight hours off. A 30-minute hourglass placed next to the helmsman was turned each time the sand ran through. At the same time, he rang the ships bell. One bell for the first glass, two for the second, up to eight for the last half hour of the watch, the signal for a new shift to begin. A half-hour on board was called “Glass”.

The function of the hourglass before the introduction of the chronometer was to keep track of time, essential for calculating longitude. Sailing from Cape Town east to Australia you didn’t want to end up on the infamous reefs out there. Finding latitude was done with sextants and tables. To define longitude, as parallel to the equator, the time had to be measured properly. This handsome, classic hourglass once ruled the schedule on a French Admiral’s command vessel. A wonderful gift, an accessory with an interesting history.


list price:$134.59
you save (19.99%)
8.5"H x 4.5"W x 4.5"D
list price:$37.50
you save (20%)
3.7"H x 1.4"W x 1.4"D
list price:$37.50
you save (20%)
3.7"H x 1.4"W x 1.4"D
list price:$127.50
you save (20%)
5.3"H x 3.1"W x 3.1"D
list price:$237.50
you save (20%)
10"H x 5.1"W x 7.3"D

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Product added successful