What is sea glass and where does it come from?
Sea glass (also called seaglass, beach glass and mermaids tears) starts out it's long journey as bottles and glass that get thrown in the ocean, broken, and then tumbled smooth by the waves, sand and time. It's Mother Nature's way of making something beautiful out of our disposables! Products today are made and disposed of very differently then they were in the past. Years ago almost everything we purchased came in glass bottles or jars. These same products today are being packaged in plastic bottles and containers. Trash disposal was something that little thought went into, and the environmental issues that we face today were not a factor. Residents would dispose of their trash by tossing it into the ocean or burying it into the sand. Over the years we have come to understand the dangers of pollution and trash disposal and have put rules such as recycling into place to address these issues. We have evolved our products to be “eco friendly” as the world goes “green”. As with any evolution we gain some things and loose others. In this case with the shift from glass to plastic and having no trash disposal to recycling, beautiful sea glass is something that we are loosing. As time goes on sea glass is becoming increasing harder to find and it is only a matter of time before these beautiful gems will simply be a thing of the past.
How can I tell if the sea glass is real?
When glass is exposed to the elements for a prolonged period of time its surface becomes hydrated. Small "C" shaped patterns form on the hydrated surface being worn down by the grinding of the sand and rocks.This "pitting" gives sea glass it's frosted look and is a process made only by nature and cannot be duplicated by any machine. There are, of course different levels of pitting due to the conditions of the area where the glass is being tumbled and the PH level of the water. The PH level in the ocean fluctuates slightly due to polluted areas. However, in places like large lakes where sea glass is also found the PH levels are much lower to do the lack of salt and other chemicals found in the ocean. With the lower levels the glass will be smoother because it cannot hydrate as well and in turn the surface will not be able to break down as easily. Also, in areas where there are less rocks and shells and finer sand the sea glass will have a softer and smoother look. But if it is a rocky area with coarser sand the glass will more have more pitting and frosting.
What Gives Sea Glass it's value?
What makes one piece of sea glass more valuable than another? Well, there are several factors that affect the value of Natural Sea Glass. Sea glass is just glass like other gemstones are just rocks! The true value for any "gem" is not only its beauty but the rareness and unique quality each piece holds. The shape of the sea glass plays an important role in determining the value. Triangular is the most common shape for sea glass. As time goes by and the glass smoothes down it molds into softer more oval or "egged" shape. To get a piece of sea glass to this stage (especially with no chips or flaws) is a long and special occurrence. Larger pieces of glass are also harder to find in a nice smooth condition because they are more likely to hit a rock and break into smaller pieces. Then those pieces have to start the process of smoothing down the chipped side, which takes years. So one piece of sea glass can easily be in the ocean for 50-100 years before it is perfectly smooth and frosted to the point of being what is called "jewelry quality". Color is also an important factor in determining the value of sea glass. It can also help date a piece of sea glass and give us an idea of what kind of bottle or tablewear it came from.
Color rarity chart
The commonly found colors Green, Brown and White are common just because there are still sources for new sea glass in this range of colors. Beer bottles, wine bottles and water bottles are still made today using these "common" glass colors. However, over time even these colors will become harder to find due to recycling. Rare colors are those that are no longer are made for today's uses (older bottles that plastic has taken the place of) and colors that were expensive to make (such as vivid red which required actual 14k gold to make the glass that shade).
1.) Common Colors: Kelly Green, White, Brown
2.) Uncommon Colors: Soft green (Seafoam), Soft blue, Olive green, Lime green, Golden amber, Amber
3.) Rare Colors: Pink, Citron, Deep Seafoam, Teal Green, Aqua, Cobalt blue, Cornflower blue, Purple (lavender)
4.) Extremely Rare: Orange, Red, Yellow, Turquoise, Teal blue, Gray
Ultra rare sea glass
"Ultra Rare" sea glass is a term that I came up with to define these colorful pieces of very rare sea glass from England. The term "Ultra Rare" is now widely used in the sea glass community but when I first started making sea glass jewelry many people were referring to it as "End of Day" sea glass or "Flash Glass".
This glass was once made for decorative uses such as table wear and Victorian art glass. The color was added in layers. The bottom layer was almost always white or clear glass and different colors we added to the top. The glass was made this way mostly because it was more cost efficient. It was less expensive to add colors on top of white glass then it was to make the whole design one solid color. The "spotted" pieces of sea glass are a result of this process. The glass was manufactured next to the ocean near a cliff. At the end of the day glass scraps would be tossed into the ocean and in time these beautiful pieces would form. These pieces of genuine English sea glass are some of the most unique and quality pieces of sea glass offered. Most of them date back to the early 1900's.
Where do you find your sea glass?
Everyone always wants to know where to find sea glass. I find a lot of my sea glass right here in Massachusetts! It is not as easy to find and as plentifull as it once was so you really have to hunt for it! Most people tell me that they search and search but find only a few pieces of sea glass, usually in the most common colors. As I stated above (in the "what is sea glass and where does it come from" section), sea glass is slowly diminishing. Also it is very rare to find sea glass at heavily populated beaches. One of the reasons for this is because town beaches or popular beaches are often very sandy and smooth. This is not the ideal sea glass environment. Remote rocky beaches are a great spot to look. During a storm it is these rocky areas that glass bottles can break against, which over time forms sea glass. It is also easier for sea glass to get suck on these beaches because there are more rocks for them to get wedged in between. Like everything else there are good days and bad ones but you never know what the tide will bring in!
Here is a picture of my beach! It has been in my family for over 70 years. Even though my great grandmothers cottage has been washed away by a storm, we still enjoy spending our summers on this beautiful corner of the ocean!