How To Make Decorative Ice Gems For Your Yard (With Step-By-Step Images)


This is the original article on the topic of using balloons to make ice gems, but over the years it has made its way around the Internet and gone viral!

This all started out at the local Whole Foods Co-Op and expanded into a sort of obsession. Originally I saw decorative ice blocks on TV years and years ago, then more recently at the Co-Op I was reminded about them again. So this winter I decided to try my hand at it, but for the life of me could not remember how they'd said they'd done it. Resourceful as I am, and determined (read that as really, really stubborn), I set out to figure things out on my own.

Have you made ice gems before?

  • Yes, it's so fun and they're so beautiful in the yard!
  • No I haven't, but they look amazing!
See results without voting

After trying out every container in my boyfriend's house (and realizing every time I wanted to cook or mix something for baking that all the spare bowls and cups were outside in the process of creating ice decorations), I felt there must be another way. My Mom, in her infinite wisdom, hit on filling balloons--pure genius! They're cheap, disposable, and create a beautiful tear-drop shape with a perfectly flat bottom. Thanks Mom!

I live in Northern Minnesota, right on Lake Superior, so will have no problems leaving ice gems outdoors for months on end throughout the winter. These winter decorations are really meant for climates that can sustain cold enough temperatures to be able to enjoy them. If you're somewhere warm and would like to feel a bit more wintry, you can make one and keep it in your freezer until you come visit us! (It's a beautiful winter wonderland, but I won't hold my breath!)


What You'll Need
What You'll Need | Source
  • Water
  • Balloons
  • Food coloring
  • Two days to freeze
  • Outdoor Temps < 25ºF / -4ºC


Add Food Coloring
Add Food Coloring | Source

Gently open the balloon with one hand and drop 3-4 drops of food coloring into the dry balloon. Try not to get this stuff on your hands; it does stain skin.

Note: Food coloring is affected by cold, and will therefore settle to one spot in your ice gem. There will not be a uniform color. That said, color adds interest and depth to your creation.

This step certainly isn't necessary, but does add a bit of color in the center of the ice gem. Crystal clear gems are absolutely beautiful as well, so I've been making multiples of each.


Fill The Balloon With Water
Fill The Balloon With Water | Source

Secure the lip of the balloon over the lip of the kitchen or bathroom tap. Hold the lip of the balloon secure with one hand while you hold the weight of the balloon with the other hand.

Fill the balloon with the coldest water you can get from your tap, and fill it slowly. Make sure not the overfill the balloon or you'll get an explosion of colored water all over the place.

Of course, nowadays you can buy all sorts of tools and gadgets to help fill the water balloons. This is especially nice for kids to use, or if you plan on making a lot of ice gems for your winter garden!


Freeze The Balloon
Freeze The Balloon | Source

If you can freeze these outside, that's great and is very convenient. Make sure to put something down on the ground underneath all your balloons. Though unlikely if handled correctly, your balloons can burst or even stick to the ground or bottom of the freezer. I use plastic grocery bags outdoors and also inside the freezer.

  • Make sure balloons rest on a flat surface, since you want the ice gems to have a flat bottom

Freeze for a day and then gently flip the balloons onto their side to continue freezing. They form ice toward the top of the balloon first, and flipping them onto their sides seems to speed up the freezing process of the bottom half. Continue freezing for at least another day and night to ensure the core is completely frozen.

After two days, check the balloon by gently shaking it back and forth. If you feel liquid sloshing around inside the gem, or see an air bubble moving around inside, put it back into the freezer or outside for another day. There's nothing worse than getting this far, only to have your gem burst open.


Unwrap The Balloon
Unwrap The Balloon | Source

Now for the fun part! It's okay to unwrap your gems indoors, but make sure they're not by a heater or out in the warm air for too long.

They start to melt fast, even with body heat, so I take one at a time and place it on a steady, cool surface. I use the kitchen table and a regular-sized soup bowl. Leave the other ones outside or in the freezer until you're ready to unwrap them.

Balance the gem in a bowl and gently remove the outer balloon coating, doing your best not to touch the surface of the gem (which instantly starts it melting.) The balloon and gem might have sharp, icy edges, so be careful. Soon you'll be able to see your very own decorative ice gem for the first time.

After each one is unwrapped I stick it back in the bowl and either into the freezer or outside. Leaving them in the bowl makes transport easy and won't get your hands as cold.


Secure The Ice Gem Outdoors
Secure The Ice Gem Outdoors | Source

Your decorative ice gems should be secured to an outdoor surface to prevent the wind or wild animals (neighborhood kids) from disturbing them. This is very simple and quick to do.

Get a glass of cold water and take it outside with you wherever you want to place your ice gem. Pour half the glass of water onto the surface where you'd like your gem to stay.

Place the flat side of the ice gem onto the pool of cold water. Pour the remaining half cup of water over the top of the gem. This will freeze the gem into place, and will be very difficult to move.

In a few hours, the ice will get more clear, and will permanently set. If it gets snowed on or dirtied, just pour another glass of cold water over it to rinse it off. These layers add a clarity to your ice gems over time, makes them more crystal clear, and ensures they remain fastened to their spot.

If you do want to remove your ice gem, simply pour a little bit of hot water around the base until it comes right off.

You can also trickle hot water over the top of the ice gems to make crazy patterns and pockets, then fill with colored water and let them freeze again.


Enjoy Your Ice Gems All Winter Long
Enjoy Your Ice Gems All Winter Long | Source

Copyright © 2011 Faceless39. All rights reserved.

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Comments 70 comments

missolive profile image

missolive 4 years ago from Texas

This is so incredibly easy and they look really cool! Makes me think of modern art sculptures. Love this! You have given me many ideas. This can be used in sooooo many ways.

Thank you for sharing this great idea.

Voted up!

SJmorningsun25 4 years ago

LOVE this!! If it gets as miserable in Chicago this winter as it did last year, I am SO trying this. Voted up, beautiful, and interesting! And bookmarked. Thank you!

anndavis25 profile image

anndavis25 4 years ago from Clearwater, Fl.

Oh what am I gonna do? Florida is no place to do that. It would melt in 10 minutes. It's 80 here today. But I'm going to do that in the house with my grandkids.

Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA Author

Thanks for the positive feedback. It is super-duper easy and fun to make these things, and despite how easy they are, you feel like you've really accomplished something when they're done lol. I hear ya about Chicago, I'm NW of there, and right on the Lake, so completely understand the winter blues. And Ann, they keep perfectly well in the freezer (I know, I have stacks of them in there freezing at the moment.) It's a fun activity, let us know how it goes.

Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

I do love these! I can't wait to make some with my kids! Great hub.

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I have never heard of such a thing! Sounds like a great project. They wouldn't last long here in S. Fl. Today it was 80 degrees, thank goodness. Your photos were great. I voted it UP, etc.

VeronicaFarkas profile image

VeronicaFarkas 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

How cool! What a great idea. I love that it's creative, easy to do, and cheap! Thanks for sharing. I may have to add this to the "to do" list for the kids! =]

Voted up & bookmarked!

leroy64 profile image

leroy64 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

Interesting. I would not have thought of this. Of course, they would not last too long down here in Dallas. A couple of weeks in January, maybe.

Beth Pipe profile image

Beth Pipe 4 years ago from Cumbria, UK

So easy and so wonderful to look at! The temperature is dropping around here now so maybe I'll have a go in a couple of weeks - thank you for sharing!

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Now this really is cool! This is fun stuff for big and little kids! I'm seeing goldfish floating around in them... :)

Voted up and bookmarked!

Would like to link this hub to my make a snowflake hub if you have no objection!

Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA Author

They really add something to the long, cold, interminable winters we get around here! I say, embrace the cold and the winter if you have it (and embrace the warm sunshine if you have That!) :) PS: Feel free to link to anything you like! Thank you.

Frannie Dee profile image

Frannie Dee 4 years ago from Chicago Northwest Suburb

Thanks, I'll try these gems. Up and awesome.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Those are just terrific. How clever. I could freeze them but I don't know how long they would last it Georgia, however it gets pretty darn cold occasionally with temps in the teens but it never lasts. Fun read anyway. Pretty pics

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey

This is so awesome. It is so on this winter! I will be trying this excellent idea to add some color to the yard. Thanks for sharing this craft.

Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

I will share the link. Voted up and awesome.

SanneL profile image

SanneL 4 years ago from Sweden

Wow,this is so cool!

This is a fun project I can easily do here in Sweden, with our freezing temperatures.

Thanks for sharing this very creative and unique idea!

Voted up and useful.

learner365 profile image

learner365 4 years ago

Wow...This is awesome and a very interesting idea.I am sure it will be admired by many people.So cool,i absolutely loved it.Will like to try it out someday as well.Thanks for sharing.

Voted up,awesome and useful!!!

Emerald Strachan 4 years ago

This is very pretty. Wish I lived somewhere where I could place them outside. Mine would melt faster than an ice-cream cone in summer.

twodawgs 4 years ago

This was a fun winter thing we used to do when we were kids.

Maralexa profile image

Maralexa 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

This is just amazing! Where I live doesn't get cold enough for long enough but I will definitely share your article with family and friends!

Voted up and awesome!

Derdriu 4 years ago

Faceless39: What colorful, economical and ingenious ornaments for the holidays! You do a great job of explaining what it takes to produce the ice gems. The pictures inspire readers to do likewise.

Thank you for sharing, etc.,


Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA Author

Thanks everyone for your kind comments and feedback. If you do try this out, let us all know if you discover any new tricks or tips!

LoveJewel profile image

LoveJewel 4 years ago from Texas

This is awesome! love to see creative crafts

homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas

These look really cool! Pun originally not intended. If it decides to get cold here for a few days I might have to give this a try.

Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA Author

Yeah, honestly, even in extreme northern Minnesota, this winter is too warm so far for these to survive very long. It's the warmest winter I can remember here. I keep putting them out, and they keep melting! I love the snow, and wish this warm spell would end in a massive blizzard. Maybe it's just me lol.

Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

What a great fun project, they look awesome!

Thank you for sharing and voted up.

Irina 4 years ago

It's -42C outside today.......not to find balloons in this house lol

Rhonda 4 years ago

What about adding glitter with a drop of vegetable oil? My kids will luv these! Should b perfect for Wisconsin!

Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA Author

OMG! Adding glitter is such a great idea. I've gotta try that in the next batch! Thanks all for the wonderful comments and traffic. :)

Mary Van 4 years ago

These are really beautiful. I am an avid ice-lantern maker, and if the bucket or balloon freezes solid before I can make a lantern, I think it's a failure. You've proven me wrong on that! I have a tip: A 12 inch helium quality balloon holds 12 to 14 pounds of water for a nice gem or lantern. I use an old bathroom scale to check the weight before I tie the balloon and freeze it.

@wewon31 4 years ago

Curious if the surface will stain from the food coloring once the ice melts?

Amy 4 years ago

I think we will try these while it is cold here in Michigan. Great idea!

Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA Author

Thanks for the ideas! It must take a long time to freeze 14 pounds of water, but I imagine they'd be gorgeous.

When they melt, the food coloring will color wood underneath; however, it's food coloring and in my experience, it washes off just fine with mild soap and water.

Keep coming with your ideas!

nicci 4 years ago

i like the idea of melting some spots with hot water and then freezing again with colored water added. My kids would love this and it is finally cold enough that these would stick around for awhile

Saskatchewan 4 years ago

A week ago I would have said that it wasn't cold enough here to keep them frozen this winter. Well, that's not a problem now. We have had -46 with windchill this week. I plan on making some of these this weekend with my grandchildren. Thanks for the instructions.

chainlakesdee 4 years ago

I have used a spray bottle and food coloring to turn icicles pretty colors in below zero weather, I can't wait to try these!

A.CreativeThinker 4 years ago

Wow, what a creative and lovely looking idea. Thanks for sharing. Take Care :)

Isela 4 years ago

I love this idea. You can do the balloons with just plain water and put them in your cooler to keep your ice last longer.

Collen 4 years ago

Wish I had known about this when we lived in Upper Michigan! Unfortunately Upper Florida won't really support such an artistic endeavor. ;) Pretty!

cocopreme profile image

cocopreme 4 years ago from Far, far away

This is such a cute idea for ice! I am going to try this next time the weather drops to freezing.

peyton 4 years ago

cool lol

doro 4 years ago

made them with the kids yesterday. we had so much fun and the "gems" were just beautiful.

Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA Author

Thanks for all the wonderful comments, and Doro, I'm so glad you and the kids had fun making them. Thanks so much for letting me know! :)

Shawnte87 profile image

Shawnte87 4 years ago

Very nice tutorial! The ending result is beautiful.

mvaivata profile image

mvaivata 4 years ago

So cool! Another thing of your that I will be trying. These are really beautiful. Thank you for putting this tutorial together; I will be sharing it!

chspublish profile image

chspublish 4 years ago from Ireland

What a truly wonderful way to use the 'cold'.

Next time we have a really cold spell - longer than a few days - I will definitely follow your idea.

All the best.

Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 4 years ago from The North Woods, USA Author

Thanks for all the comments!

PS: If you don't want all the bubbles to show in the end product (which personally I like), use bottled water!

stessily 4 years ago

Faceless 39, These creations are real gems! Your photos and instructions are clear and helpful.

I see in your comment that bubbles in the end product are avoided by using bottled water instead of tap water. I love the bubbles!

Thank you for sharing.

eyeforstyle profile image

eyeforstyle 4 years ago from Manlius, New York, USA

This is very creative! I can't wait to try it soon. Thank you for sharing this idea! :)

Mary anne 4 years ago

I cannot wait to try this!

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