The Beauty Of Beach Glass, Sea Frosted Gemstones
Colors of the Sea
A Beachcomber's Treasure
Trips to the beach often involve walking along looking for interesting shells or whatever the ocean tides wash up upon the shore. It is one of my favorite vacation pastimes.
Sometimes the treasure of a water-frosted gem catches your eye, glimmering amid the sea wrack line ... and you add the new found piece to the collection of your seashore souvenirs.
Who isn't taken with those wave-washed gems of the sea, the beach glass of different colors? Here is the story of sea glass and the way creative people have taken these humble pieces of broken glass to create really lovely hand crafted jewelry.
It might surprise you to know that these bits of broken glass are valuable once the sea has refined them and brought out their beauty. I learned to love them when I bought a pair of earrings during a visit to Maui.
What Is The Difference?
Technically, sea glass refers to salt water glass and beach glass refers to fresh water glass.
How They Became Sought-For Gems - Illustrated with wonderful photos
What Makes Beach Glass?
Castaways become treasured finds
What makes these frosted seashore beauties? What do people do with them? For me, the few I have are memories of special family vacations, but for many they are prized for the softly casual gleam and color they bring to a piece of jewelry.
With a little know-how, you can turn your finds from walks along the shore into works of art, crafts, and gifts.
Over many years, even centuries, people have broken dishware, vases, and bottles and dumped them; many of those found their way -in some manner or another- to the water.
In creeks and rivers, near lakes and in the oceans, the little bits and pieces were washed and tumbled by waves and ripples, ground by sand, stone pebbles, or seashells.
This work of nature softened the look of the surface of the shiny glass and rounded the sharp edges. Many of these glass bits became frosted and beautified, washing up on shores. Some became caught behind rocks or just part of the debris washed ashore during storms. In special places like Glass Beach in Ft. Bragg, California, they were caught in a natural tumbler action and built up many of these glass pebbles and deposited them on land.
It can take between ten to thirty years for this completely frosted look.
Oceans cause a more weathered look than the waves of freshwater lakes. The pH of the water also affects the surface and its minerals remove elements and cause pitting. Time and water with the wave action works on the glass or pottery pieces to create the worn, frosted gems we call beach glass. Sometimes sunlight and other factors change the colors.
Why Is It So Desirable Now?
The changes in the way we live contribute to the increasing scarcity of seaglass examples. We exchanged glass containers for plastic, became more careful about dumping refuse into our waterways and the oceans. It goes without saying that there are far less shipwrecks from which broken glassware might enter the ocean waters.
All these factors contribute to the depletion of sources for finding the once abundant colored pebbles we love to find on beach walks along the shoreline.
More people are interested in combing beaches for what can be found, and that has also contributed to the rarity of finds.
There is no such thing as officially certified sea glass, and the buyer must rely on the reputation of the seller or their knowledge of genuine characteristics.
Best Time For Beachcombing
"The best times to look are during spring tides and perigean and proxigean tides, and during the first low tide after a storm." -Wikipedia
Do You Collect Things While On The Beach? - What is your favorite find?
Do you do more than just admire beach glass, shells , or something else when walking on a beach. We would love to know what you collect and what you do with your collection.
What do you collect while walking the beach?
The Tale Of Mermaid Tears
How To Find Your "Mermaid Tears" - You might find a gem!
Follow the wrack line, which is the line of debris left by the last high tide or storm, as you walk along the shoreline. Pay close attention to places where small shells and pebbles accumulate. Look for pockets of rocks and pebbles that collect just at the water's edge.
Especially search during bright days when the gleam of sunlight can reflect off of the shards.
Have you found a place with several pieces in one area? Are there various colors? You may have hit the motherlode! Comb that area.
Places that were popular tourist spots in the early 1900s, old coastal dumps especially of old glass factories, all might be a treasure trove of finds.
Places that are likely to have treasures:
- a beach with limited access
- See one that is harder for the usual beachcomber to enter? A greater chance of making finds, there.
- Search shoreline gravel washes for lodged pieces among the stones
Do you know what to look for?
Well worn bits of glass or pottery, even the larger pieces of bottles qualify as long as they are wave washed.
It surprised me that pottery shards would be considered as "gems". I really never took notice of them, although I can remember finding water worn bits of beer and coke bottles as a child.
You might find the Pinterest board dedicated to sea glass and sea pottery to be an interesting visit.
Home of the International Sea Glass Museum
In Fort Bragg, California, a museum of Sea glass was created by Capt. Cass Forrington
Ft. Bragg is also home to the Sea Glass Festival which takes place on Memorial Day Weekend. The area claims to have the highest concentration of sea glass on its beaches due to a unique rock formation on its coastline.
If you visit the Glass Beach State Park, collecting glass is prohibited to preserve this feature for the future. If like me, you also love to take photos of beaches and their many facets of visual beauty, those restrictions won't matter. It is a unique opportunity to see loads of examples of frosted glass pebbles all in one place.
The Beach has been depleted of its glass over the years, and many who review this attraction have voiced disappointment, but others find it still holds plenty of interest. The beach is bound to have changing conditions with tides and storms, etc. For me, the chance to see a beach with lots of these finds still holds interest.
Other Places To Comb The Beach
On the coast of Maine: Bar Harbor, Jonesport, Land's End, and Belfast.
Lake Erie from Cleveland to Conneaut, Ohio may yield results. Try Durand Beach in Rochester, NY or Presque Isle in Erie, Pennsylvania.
An excellent area to look is on Glass Beach, Kauai, Hawaii.
There are a number of well known sites off the coast of England, as well. The beaches of Northeast England are one of the best known areas.
Be sure to walk slowly while sweeping the ground with your eyes. Bend down and touch potential pieces to check them..don't just quickly pass by.
For Those With A Passion
Variations: Why and How It Got Its Look
Glass from inland waterways such as Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes (fresh water areas) is known as beach glass. Chips and pieces of broken bottles and glassware become the frosted pebbles formed by the wave action of the water.
The power of the waves and salt create a somewhat different look than those formed in freshwater.
Oceans give a much more weathered looking effect than the Great Lakes.
The Colors Of Seaglass
There are numerous colors and some are more rare than others, but all are becoming harder to obtain.
Kelly green, brown, and white colors are the most common.
Amber, lime green, jade, as well as forest green, ice and soft blue colors may be found from the remains of old whiskey, medicine, and juice bottles, soft drink bottles, ink containers, and even poison bottles.
For some collectors, it is the old shards of pottery that hold their fascination. The minerals of the seawater, the catalyst of the sun, and time will sometimes give these shards a special sparkle, but they are all weather and water worn and create a desirable look that collectors love.
It is possible to find pink, yellow, red, and gray tints.
Lavender is usually the result of clear glass that had been refined with magnesium.
What Are The Rarest Colors?
Purple ocean glass is very uncommon, and so is citron, old milk glass, cobalt and cornflower blue colors.
Orange is considered the rarest of all.
"Mermaid Tears" is the sentimental term for the frosted chips that glimmer on the beaches.
The wrack zone is part of the shore just above the mean high tide line where kelp is deposited on the sand. This is a primary place to search.
Places rich in finds may have idiosyncratic characteristics: some are better at low tide, some at high tide, some beaches are better at certain times of the year. Look during the fall and spring, give attention to gravel beaches or where rivers empty into the sea.
Looking for Quality
A quality piece has smooth edges with no shiny spots; its surface is well frosted in texture.
What are some of the conditions that lead to an old bottle becoming the sought after stones that beachcombers and jewelry makers are looking for? Higher water pH and rocky shores will contribute to faster aging of the glass. The rougher the beach, or rock formations, the more likely the frosted appearance of the refuse glass will be created in a shorter period of time.
Searching is called "glassing", and the times which are best are often after strong storm winds have stirred up the sea. Not ideal vacation conditions, but loved by inveterate "glassers".
"Rounds" are the bottom of bottles. Sometimes large whole rounds can be found and are highly prized.
Items with embossing are very desirable, The patterns can give clues to age and origin, one example being a story told by Capt. Cass of the International Sea Glass Museum in California. He tells of a piece of glass that had a rose embossed on it.
Glass Beach in Ft. Bragg, California
When old broken household plates, bottles, and pitchers that were no longer useful to them, people went to the nearest body of water and dumped them. This is the way the famous Glass Beach in Ft. Bragg California was formed; it became the place where the broken and wave tossed items collected. The unique rock formation also had a hand in it. Those rocks kept everything from washing out to sea and formed particularly rich troves of finds. One factor in Ft. Bragg's site was the earthquake damage which was dozed and carted into the sea.
The site at Ft. Bragg is probably the most famous and claims to have the most density.
I was surprised at the number of festivals dedicated to seaglass aficionados - if you attend one of those it is likely that you will find plenty of jewelry made by artists exhibited in vendor stalls. Perhaps that might be a good place to glean some advice on the skills of the craft, too.
Wish You Were Here
This is actually Fulgurite, and not glass at all.
The fulgurites are created when lightning hits sand in just the right conditions. They are not smooth and rounded.