Gazing balls date back to 13th century Venice, Kugelhouse.com explains. The first commercially sold glass ornament, made in 1848 in Germany, was called a kugel, which means, "ball." It wasn't until 1880 that these ornaments made their way to stores in America. In the U.S., collectors may call them friendship balls, gazing balls or witch balls.
Regardless of their name, these decorative hanging spheres feature hand-blown glass. Usually hollow, witch balls sparkle from the glass strands strung inside of them, while swirls of colored glass may adorn the outside layer.
People using small kugels as seasonal decorations typically hang them from trees or the ceiling during the Christmas holidays. These decorative glass balls can add color by hanging in a front yard, sitting in a stand or floating in a pond.