Objects,  The Curious World

Curious Objects: Crystal Fortune Dice

When I discovered these gorgeous little divination balls a few years ago, I was fascinated and quickly became hooked. I began a collection to sell in my Curiosity Shop and became somewhat of an expert on these little balls. So I’d like to share what I know about crystal fortune dice. If you become as fascinated as me with these wonderful divination devices, and would like to purchase one for yourself, you can take your pick from the selection available in the shop.

What are Crystal Fortune Dice?

A collection of Czech crystal fortune telling dice showing the different sizes
Part of my collection of Czech crystal fortune dice

Simply, these wonderful little divination balls are glass dice. They have 32 sides, numbered 1 to 30, with a 0 and a 00 on the opposite edges. The dice were made in Czechoslovakia in about 1930, and are made from lead crystal.

Czech crystal fortune dice are rare, I have only come across some 20 or so since I first discovered them a few years ago, and I’m always on the lookout for more.

Originally, these dice were a fortune telling game. They usually came in a cardboard box with a set of instructions. But sadly, when I come across them these days, I find that their box and/or their instructions are often missing. Unfortunately, this leaves people unaware of what they are or how to use them.

Almost every crystal fortune die I have come across, has been made in Czechoslovakia. However, they have been marketed and sold throughout the world under different guises. For example in the USA some were called ‘The Hindu Crystal Ball’ and were marketed and sold by the Rou-Ball-Ette Co., in New York.

How Did They Start?

Divination as Witchcraft

Throughout history, laws and regulations have been made to stop any supernatural practice, like fortune telling. Witchcraft, which was perceived by some as a means to summon evil spirits and demons to do harm to others. It was linked to religion to the extent that the medieval Church had powers to punish those who dabbled in magic and sorcery.

In 1542 Parliament passed the Witchcraft Act which defined witchcraft as a crime punishable by death. Later, in 1736 Parliament repealed the laws against witchcraft, instead imposing fines or imprisonment on people who claimed to be able to use magical powers.  

Parliament in the UK passed the Vagrancy Act in 1824, under which fortune-telling, astrology and spiritualism became punishable offences. The Vagrancy Act was repealed in 1951 and was replaced by the Fraudulent Mediums Act. This, in turn was repealed in 2008.

There are five basic divination systems widely used throughout the world today: Astrology, Numerology, I Ching, Tarot and Runes. These methods had only been practised by people who claimed to have special abilities. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that it became possible to tell your own fortune by the invention of new products manufactured to make it possible.

Divination at Home

In the early 21st century new means of self divination became available to anyone. Fortune telling cups and saucers, Oracle cards and other devices such as the Crystal Fortune Balls all came with instructions enabling anyone to carry out their own readings and decipher the results.

Fortune Telling as a Game

There were still legal restrictions around in 1930, so to get over the restrictions when these Czech crystal fortune dice were produced, they were sold as a game or pass-time with the following statement appearing on the front of the box.

Be a Crystal Gazer and give amusement to your friends

Czech Glass

Czech or Bohemian glass is highly valued for its beauty, craftsmanship and unusual design. The history of this remarkable glass has been traced back to c.1250.

Lead Crystal

Generally, the difference between glass and crystal is the lead content. The term crystal, traditionally means that there is a high content of lead which increases the weight of the glass and causes it to defract light giving it its most sparkling attribute. The more lead content a crystal glass object has, the increase in its desirability and value.

But this was not the case in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. The word ‘crystal’ has and is now only used for especially fine, high quality glass.

Differences in Crystal Fortune Dice

A jewellery casket filled with and surrounded by crystal fortune dice
Part of my collection showing the differences in size and appearance

Size and Weight

The Czech crystals come in two sizes; large which is typically around 3cm and small at around 2cm. But even then, each crystal is different. So that I could tell which one was which, from my collection, especially when I grouped them all together for photographing, the only way to tell was by weight.

I’ve found the large crystal dice differ from between 24.70g to 30.40g. Similarly, the small ones from 8.97g to 11.06g.

Markings

For markings, I am including both the numbering and lettering. Whilst all the dice have numbers which are indented, some dice have paint within the indents whilst others have none. Mostly the paint is white but sometimes it can be gold. The residue of paint can also differ depending on wear.

On most crystal fortune dice the origin of the dice is indented and painted on the 0 side. It usually says ‘Made in Czechoslovakia’, however some say ‘Foreign’ which is usually an import mark required by the Uk and others have nothing at all.

Appearance

A single crystal fortune dice
A single crystal fortune dice without paint in the indentations

Then of course, is the appearance of the glass. It appears that the balls are formed from two semi circular molds and the middle ‘ring’ separating the two sides can be extremely smooth or quite rough.

Also, age and wear can also have a huge impact on the appearance. Some you may find are like new whereas others are very worn where they have either been greatly used or have been lost to the elements or the back of a kitchen drawer.

Value

It seems that the crystal fortune telling balls are increasing in value. When I first began collecting I could pick one up for as little as ten to fifteen pounds. Now, however, irrespective of whether they’re large or small, I rarely pay less than £30 and have often paid more for a ‘perfect’ example.

Crystal Fortune Dice for Sale

This crystal comes with an antique pewter-like casket, a gorgeous organza and lace bag and a little stand, and of course a set of my instructions.
This is Ourania. This crystal comes with an antique pewter-like casket, a gorgeous organza and lace bag and a little stand, and of course a set of my instructions.

I have carried out my own project on these fantastic crystal fortune dice in my shop. I have also reproduced my own set of instructions taken from various sets that I have collected over the years. So head off to the shop to see the results if you’re interested in looking or even purchasing either a crystal fortune ball or a set of instructions.

Aylin is presented very simply with just a small organza bag in a tiny ring box.
Aylin is presented very simply with just a small organza bag in a tiny ring box.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this useful. Please leave a comment or send me a message, I’d love to hear from you.

Sources:

UK Parliament website, Witchcraft. https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/religion/overview/witchcraft/

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