Sea Glass: Treasures from the Sea
Hunting and Collecting Sea Glass
Sea glass collecting is a passion for me. I think hunting for things was "in" me all along because as a young girl, I would always find coins or treasures on my walk to and from school. One year I kept track of all the coins I found and hoped I would get to $100! Having a keen eye on the ground it was natural to spot items, pick them up, and keep them as treasures.
Hunting for sea glass is just my grown up version of this childhood hobby only I get a much deeper gratification from what moves my soul to be on a beach looking for these treasures from the sea. You never heard of sea glass before? Come on, I'll show you what it is!
Sea Glass Explained
Where Does it Come From?
Sea glass originates from broken glass, dinnerware, household items thrown overboard in the sea, or lost from a ship due to a shipwreck. These items are tossed around in the sea for weeks, months, years, decades or even centuries! The time they spend in the sea being tossed and churned against the sea bottom and it's rocks, and the area of the sea in which they are, classifies them into different levels of sea glass.
A chemical and physical change takes place to give the glass it's patina or frosty look. When you find glass that looks like a broken beer or soda bottle, that is not genuine. It most likely has only been in the sea for a short amount of time (weeks, months or a few years). However, there has been glass found that has been tested to be centuries old. Imagine those pirates throwing booty overboard that they thought was not worthy of keeping and you or I finding it on a beach today. This type of glass is still found today.
It is true that the "supply" of sea glass is dwindling due to the ever increasing popularity of collecting this type of beach treasure. On the flip side, with the growing awareness of being "green", less trash is being dumped overboard creating less of a supply. However, there are places in our country and around the world that still wash up these beautiful treasurers we call sea glass.
Greece Sea Glass - First Big Find
I have to give credit to my sister-in-law Eileen, who introduced me to sea glass. She is a lover of all types of nature and can spot anything anywhere and on this particular walk, we were on a beach on Cape Cod. Among the things she spotted on that walk were slipper shells, hermit crabs, and a few little pieces of glass. She explained to me they were called sea glass and although we found seven pieces that day, they are not so common on the Bay side of Cape Cod where we were. The experience was tucked in the back of my mind.
The following year I traveled to Greece with my daughter, mother and friend on a sailboat cruise (which I highly recommend!!!). We were docked in Rhodes, Greece, and off the boat for the first day. After being in town for the afternoon we were heading back to the boat. My daughter and I decided it would be grand fun to put our feet in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time so we went down to this little beach, maybe 150 feet long, put our feet in, took a few pictures and started to just wander around. Before you know it, our eyes starting picking out all colors of pieces of sea glass. We walked that beach back and forth several times picking up over 250 pieces of the stuff not realizing at all, what treasures we had found!
Since then I have learned that the Serce Limani shipwrecked off the coast of Rhodes in the 11th century. It's load was tons and tons of glass. I like to think that the glass we found that day is from the shipwreck and it could very well be so.
Star Clippers - Sailboat Vacation
StarClippers is the line of sailboat cruises that we choose for our Greek Islands tour. Our boat had 170 passengers so it was very cozy and personal. The crew knew our names, we made new friends, and the cruise line really made us feel special. There weren't casinos or bowling alleys, but there were cozy places to read a book, two pools to cool off in, hoisting the sails each not, and stars galore in the evening sky. I highly recommend traveling this way at least once in your life.
The picture is of our ship docked at Rhodes, taken from the sea glass treasure beach!
This is the closest beach to where I now live so we visit often. We have come to love our visits to Galveston. Each spring we rent a beach house over a weekend and thoroughly enjoyed the sun and sand. We enjoy several beach combing walks and found some nice remnants of the sea including glass, shells, tile, driftwood, and beans.
Most of the time, Galveston glass (below) is less pure than the Greece glass. One of the reasons is because Galveston and this area of the Gulf of Mexico has a sandy sea bottom and the glass tumbles on less rocks than in other areas of the country or world. This composition results in the glass taking longer to wear thus the more beach-type glass, not pure sea glass. As most beach combers do, we have found the hot spots in and around Galveston thus finding this beautiful sample of sea glass.
Lake Michigan Glass
On a recent trip from Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan, we stopped at several beaches to roam and look for beach glass. The sunny shoes of Lake Michigan in Chicago was where we found the pieces shown in the photo above.
Don't rule out the north shore beaches of Chicagoland, their beauty is outstanding and there is some beach glass to be found.
I have not yet had the chance to sea glass hunt on Lake Erie, but it is undoubtedly one of the best places in our country to find beautiful pure sea glass.
An Alaskan cruise is on the wish list for many Americans, not to mention many worldly travelers. I was fortunate to take one of these cruises with my husband (now deceased), and brother- and sister-in-law. Here is the story of how I found sea glass in Icy Point Strait, Alaska.
We signed up for a kayak excursion. Prior to setting afloat, you are required to have a little inservice of sorts. I promise you, I was listening but I was also taking in the scenery, the moment, and the advantage of being on the beach. My eyes were wandering down (as usual) and I spotted a piece of lavender sea glass at my feet! I stooped down, picked it up, pocketed it and went on the excursion. After returning from the trip, we had time before the cruise liner sailed so Eileen and I walked the beach looking for glass. Sure enough, we came up with about two dozen pieces of glass and some beautiful stones that I keep in a bowl to remind me of that day. The lavender colored glass remains today, one of my most favorite pieces I own.
Martha's Vineyard and Maine Glass
For once, I am not going to reveal the location in The Vineyard beach (that's kinda standard fare for MV so I'm just going with the flow). We stayed in a little motel that had a private beach. It was wonderful to lazy outside first thing in the morning to start off our day. Kids were happy playing in the sand, I was happy searching for gifts from the sea on our little 100 foot private beach. Lo and behold over the course of 3 days, I found 3 dozen pieces of mostly pure sea glass! I was estatic as having visited Martha's Vineyard twice before and hadn't found a single piece of glass.
We traveled to Maine for three days with the sole purpose of hunting for sea glass. If you Google just that in Maine you come up with two of the beaches we visited. Crescent Beach State Park and Willard Beach. I thought I was going to hit pay dirt at Willard because a huge storm blew in that afternoon and we went to Willard Beach just two hours after the storm but we didn't find that many pieces there. Crescent Beach was another story and the intro photo in this hub is the pay dirt I found on Crescent Beach. Needless to say, I cannot wait to go back again! It's worth another look.
Shhh! It's A Secret
Or Maybe Not!
Many sea glass hunters prefer to keep their prime hunting ground a secret. I can understand this to an extent. This activity is usually one very dear to the heart of the hunter and to reveal the location of the hunting ground would be an open invitation to anyone else.
On the other hand, I don't feel like I can tell you these stories without the proper location as the story looses some of it's value if you can't imagine where I am telling you the story from. So I have decided to tell you where I've found the glass I have and give you the whole experience.
Newport, Rhode Island - Summer 2013
Once again we just we wandering down to a dock to get a good picture of the big bridge leading in to Newport and we stumbled upon this small beach. One step in the sand and we found a beautiful green piece of glass. Hundreds of pieces later, my kids had to pull me away to leave.
Rhode Island is nicknamed "The Ocean State" and has a lot of sea glass on it's beaches. I cannot wait to return to hunt again!
We continued on to the Cape and the Vineyard and were delighted with our total finds this summer.
I had five minutes to grab what I could and got this small handful of lake or beach glass as it is called when it comes from a lake, not the sea.
Texas Coast 2016
Spring Break 2016 we decided to trek from Port Arthur to Port Aransas to hunt for sea glass. We had much success - it was either hit or miss and the hits were way more fun than the misses. We saw some beautiful beaches and got a real flavor for how the sand and shore changes as we traveled southwesterly.
In retrospect, so glad we did this trip as Hurricane Harvey has hit both of these areas very hard.
Decorating with Sea Glass
One of the things I have done with my glass is make stepping stones. I also have it displayed in a glass hurricane lamp, a small vintage bowls - pink and white, a parfait glass, a big shell, a fish bowl, and in a shadow box.
The stepping stone here combines my love of gardening and using the sea glass I have collected these past 10 years. I get great pleasure seeing the combination of these two things.
Beware of the Tumbled Glass
It's Not All Real Unfortunately
Many arts and crafts and hobby stores sell what they call "sea glass." As you can tell from the facts on finding these treasures, there is no way one could find bags and bags of these similarly colored glass, package them, and sell them in a retail store. So before you buy this type of glass at a store, make sure you are OK with the tumbled version OR make sure you are getting the real thing!
In defense of tumbled glass, I have seen some very nice decorations and projects made with tumbled glass, in particularly heart-shaped glass. (I have found about 5 pieces of sea glass that is heart-shaped so the likelihood of bags of it being real are slim to none.) A good friend gave me a giant bag full of them and I put a few in an oval shaped dish that now sits on my windowsill. Even though they aren't pure, it gives me great pleasure that my friend thought of me enough to purchase them and gift them to me.
Ways To Display Your Sea Glass
Here are a variety of ways I display my glass and I bet it will get your creative juices flowing.
- In a shadow box
- In an oval teak bowl
- In a hurricane glass
- spilling out from a glass container
- In a large sea shell
- In a small fish bowl
- In a stepping stone
- In an empty sea shell
Arts & Crafts with Sea Glass
- Sea Glass as a picture frame - I glued sea glass around the edge of a picture frame and put a memory of our time at the beach in the frame.
- Sea Glass as a picture itself - I have seen a heart shaped outline design made with heart shaped tumbled sea glass. It's beautiful!
- Make a sea glass stepping stone - I've made several.
COOL STORY: I was in Galveston with my good friend Linda. Her daughter was expecting a baby at any time. We got the call that morning that the baby was on it's way. Linda and I searched for glass on the beach that morning to help pass the time. We found a lot of green glass. After the baby was born, I used the glass we found that day to make a stepping stone celebrating the baby's birthday. I put her initials, date of birth, and a green 4-leaf clover on the stone since it was St. Patrick's Day. It was a great way to use the glass Linda and I found together on that day her first granddaughter was born!
NASGA or North American Sea Glass Association
Did you know there are sea glass conventions? I have yet to attend one but hopefully one day, I will.
Check out the NASGA website here. There is also an online community for sea glass lovers through this website.
To Send You On Your Way
© 2012 Joanie Ruppel