What is Sea Glass
Beachcombing has long been a relaxing pastime for the lucky few who vacation or live near the coast. Shells have long been the beachcomber’s treasure, but in recent years an old commodity has exceeded the shell’s value: sea glass. So, exactly what is sea glass?
Also known as beach glass, mermaids tears, ocean glass, and trash glass, this collectible is formed after years of tumbling in ocean waves, softening the sharp edges of shards of broken glass. When spotted on the shoreline, a water-drenched piece of sea glass can stand out like a shiny, glistening jewel.
What is Sea Glass – Origination
Sea glass originates from man-made trash – bottles or jars tossed overboard ships or dumped with other garbage into the ocean, where they would break into pieces and tumble around. Most sea glass found today dates before the mid 1960’s (when plastics became the norm). A perfectly smooth piece may have been in the ocean for decades, even a century. Collectors value the glass for its beauty and the mystery of its history – whose hand might have held the original item? What story might the sea glass tell?
What is Sea Glass – How it’s Made
A piece of broken glass undergoes a dramatic transformation on its journey to become sea glass. Once sharp, the shard’s edges gradually smooth by tumbling against rock and sand. Over years water leaches out lime and soda from the glass, leaving a frosted surface where it was once shiny and translucent. This process is called hydration. Some pieces even have pit marks and other patterns in the surface, evidence of their traumatic metamorphosis in the sea. Sea glass qualifies chemically as a mineral gem, claims Carol Lambert, author of Sea Glass Chronicles: Whispers from the Past.
What is Sea Glass – Colors
Colors range from the common white, green, and amber (think beer bottles), the less common cobalt and aqua, the rare purple and peach, to the extremely rare red, turquoise and orange. The rarity of these colors is due to the rarity of the bottles of origin. Pieces containing bubbles might have originated from hand-blown glass of the 19th century. Collectors also seek unique pieces such as bottle stoppers, etched surface designs, bottle bottoms with unique markings, and campfire glass. The latter is formed when glass melts in fire, breaks, then is processed in the ocean’s elements to become another unique element in the sea glass category.
What is Sea Glass – Crafts
Artisans have turned these shards of humble beginnings into various crafts. Sea glass jewelry is becoming increasingly popular. Other artists use the glass to make hair accessories, candles, sculptures, sun catchers, and mosaics. Sea glass is the recycler’s dream, proving that trash can be turned into treasure. If you don’t believe it, visit a website selling jewelry made from natural sea glass. A pair of earrings crafted from little more than tiny bits of rare red sea glass can fetch $200 or more. Sea glass jewelry has become increasingly popular since the late 1980’s.
What is Sea Glass – On the Market
The popularity of sea glass has prompted imitations to appear on the market in large quantities. Reputable dealers will state up front whether their sea glass is natural or fake – though they may term their imitations as “replica”, “craft glass”, or “faux”. Craft glass is easily made in any color using a rock tumbler or acid baths, and is a good alternative for projects requiring large amounts.