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The Beauty Of Beach Glass, Sea Frosted Gemstones

Updated on September 10, 2015
Ilonagarden profile image

Being creative is what it's all about- let's make some cute stuff! Hope you enjoy these ideas and they spark your own fun projects.

Colors of the Sea

Colors of the Sea
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.

Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature's Vanishing Gems
Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature's Vanishing Gems
Over 200 elegant images by photographer Celia Pearson present some of the best sea glass ever collected; find out everything you want to know about sea glass and how it came to be a highly prized gem.

How They Became Sought-For Gems - Illustrated with wonderful photos

Read an Interview with the author of 'Pure Sea Glass', check LaMotte's website, too. These sites give you insights into this acclaimed book that seems to be on every beach lover's list.


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?

On Flickr
On Flickr | Source

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?

See results

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

International Sea Glass Museum Site

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

A Passion for Sea Glass
A Passion for Sea Glass
A treasure of gorgeous photos, this is a book to savor. Anyone who loves the look of seaglass, whether they collect or not will be taken with the beautiful ways that a simple gift from the sea can be displayed.

Bottle Green


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.

on Flickr
on Flickr | Source

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.

The Festival Location for Ft. Bragg:
17801, North Highway 1 Fort Bragg, Ca 95437.

get directions


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

Zazzle cards
Zazzle cards | Source

"Lightning Glass"

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.

Beachcombers Welcome - Wilson would love to hear from you

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    • Ilonagarden profile imageAUTHOR

      Ilona E 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      Yes I write for free, and this topic just happened to interest me. One of the great things about the web.

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 

      7 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens very much. I will continue to collect rocks, because that's all I have access to, and I occasionally get a seashell someplace.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      8 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Just beautiful! Reminds me of the beach and family times ~ now I will look at the beach glass through a different eye! SquidAngel blessed! B : )

    • MadHaps LM profile image

      MadHaps LM 

      8 years ago

      Lots of info. These water worn glass gems while can be found everywhere, checking out the trashier places that people would litter and dump on from creek to lake area are some times more productive. But ZodiacImmortal got it right.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Beautiful photos, lots of interesting and useful information. ~Blessed!~

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Love this, amazing pictures, wonderful page! blessed:-) We have a lot of beach glass on the jersey shore and love the New England coastline.

    • Zodiacimmortal profile image


      8 years ago from Yonkers, NY

      REAL beachglass is made when lightning strikes the beach superheating the sand therefore making glass. Which is why its so sought after a prize. Otherwise the beach glass from bottles is normally quite easy to find if you know where to look

    • SMW1962 LM profile image

      SMW1962 LM 

      8 years ago

      What beautiful treasures!

    • profile image

      Michey LM 

      8 years ago

      It is amusing what the waves make out of trivial pieces of colored pieces of glass... I use to pick them up om Cal Nay NJ, but didn't cress my mind to make jewelry from them... Thanks for a great lens.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very nice jewelry from glass.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have never sought after sea glass but Lake Superior beach glass is pretty much the same thing and "gem" is the perfect word for them! There's plenty to be had and if one doesn't seem quite "done", just toss it back for a little more action and the next person to find it may have the perfect gem. I love your pictures, almost like being there!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My wife and I have a wonderful shell collection, but now after your lens, we will glassing as well as shelling Thanks for your lens

    • magictricksdotcom profile image


      8 years ago

      My wife makes jewelry from sea glass. The photos you chose for your lens are terrific.

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      8 years ago

      Gorgeous photographs!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      8 years ago from Kansas

      I love looking for sea glass. Half the fun is the hunt. Blessed.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      8 years ago

      Really enjoyed this lens, I read every word and saw the cute video with the birds. I will keep more alert when I go to visit local beaches, but I also am happy to find out that you can buy it off eBay as I was perplexed on how to get it if I didn't have a good day.( I thought about breaking purple glass and releasing it to the sea, but that doesn't really seem like my style.) Great job on an interesting and instructive lens, angel blessed!

    • siobhanryan profile image


      8 years ago

      Never realised the history of sea glass--brillant lens

    • profile image

      biggking lm 

      8 years ago

      The only piece of glass I found at the beach ended up cutting open the bottom of my foot. People NEED TO CLEAN UP after themselves, this is ridiculous. I ended up getting 5 stitches and couldn't walk for 2 weeks.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Beautiful. Never knew that those pieces of glass can be used.

    • Ilonagarden profile imageAUTHOR

      Ilona E 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      @SoniaCarew: How exciting- I wonder what the coast of Namibia will reveal?

    • Ilonagarden profile imageAUTHOR

      Ilona E 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      @purpleslug: YAY- look for beach glass, right?!

    • Ilonagarden profile imageAUTHOR

      Ilona E 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      @favored: I always saw beach glass while on vacation,but never knew what to do with it except admire!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I'm absolutely like your lens. It gives me an idea about gems.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      8 years ago from USA

      Haven't seen any sea glass except clear. It's really something. We used to call them Cape May Diamonds in NJ.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have been wanting to get back to the beach and your lens has helped in deciding what we will be doing over the Memorial Day weekend. Thanks!

    • SoniaCarew profile image


      8 years ago

      Fabulous! My next trip to Swakopmund (Namibia's beautiful coastal town) is definitely going to include 'a hunt for beach glass!) I love collecting shells but I don't keep them, I give them away. But I might just keep the glass.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i'll definitely be on the lookout when my family is at the beach. thanks for the great lense!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I collect sea glass as well. My favorite treasure is a piece of blue found off Kittery Point.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Off to the beach soon, I'll see what I can find. Thank you for sharing this with us. Blessed.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image


      8 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      A beautiful and interesting lens. Well done. I, too, love the ocean. I have collected sea shells for years, but have never found a piece of sea glass. I'll not stop looking, though.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. Always get excited when I find that unique colorful piece of beach glass.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. Always get excited when I find that unique colorful piece of beach glass.

    • intermarks profile image


      8 years ago

      Beach glass is really hard to find, I think many people like to collect beach glass including me. Thanks!

    • pheonix76 profile image


      8 years ago from WNY

      I love sea glass! It is so unique and each piece seems to have its own "story" -- really neat. Thanks for sharing, great lens. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      It really is so very lovely! Thanks for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image

      joannalynn lm 

      8 years ago

      I read an article a few years ago on the best remaining beaches to find beach glass in the US. I remember one near Monterey, California, and one near Galveston, Texas. I have collected quite a lot not far north of Seattle, Washington, but it is becoming increasingly rare. It is so beautiful, just to keep in a window sill. Thank you for such a nice lens.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, fascinating! I like the colors.

    • Blonde Blythe profile image

      Blonde Blythe 

      8 years ago from U.S.A.

      Love that sea glass! Interesting lens! :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A gift from Mother Nature.

    • WebWriteGirl LM profile image

      WebWriteGirl LM 

      8 years ago

      Gorgeous lens!

    • WebWriteGirl LM profile image

      WebWriteGirl LM 

      8 years ago

      Gorgeous lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Gorgeous lens, fantastic pictures!

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 

      8 years ago from Havre de Grace

      Great lens! Makes me want to go hunting :) Angel Blessed!

    • psiloveyou1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Beautiful lens. We live near the Chesapeake Bay. I know others who have found lots of beach glass. I keep saying I'm going to go hunting, but I haven't done it yet!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      They are very interesting and very beautiful.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      love it, =

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 

      8 years ago

      I have found some pretty pieces myself. They remind me a great time spent on beach now :)

    • HtCares profile image


      8 years ago

      Great information...I've never looked for beach glass, but I will in the future. Loved the lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Lens is very attractive.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Oh my, I never thought those were valuable. I have picked up a few and dumped them into my aquarium and they were given away with the aquarium when I got tired of maintaining it! Will look for some on my next tip to the beach.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love the color of beach glass... lovely

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting and full of great ideas.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Every time I go to Bar Harbor in Maine, I collect as much Sea Glass as I can. It's really fun :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Beautiful... I love sea glass... we have a jar of our finds on the windowsill.

    • jolou profile image


      8 years ago

      Very pretty lens. I'm fortunate to live just a few miles from the Pacific, and love anything beach related.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      I never thought of turning my beach glass into jewelry. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      I have a friend in Maine who makes the most beautiful beach glass jewelry. Look on Facebook for "Tears of the Sea."

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have hundreds of pieces of beach glass. Mine is from the Delaware River, from the Pa side. I started collecting it 25 years ago, and still find more and more pieces every summer. Some of the pottery is dated back 75 years and I think much of the glass is from the 30's, 40's, and 50's. I have collected whole bottles as well. The beach glass I collect is not as well frosted as the seaglass you find near an ocean, but it is still very smooth.


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