The Story of Sea Glass
What is Sea Glass?
Sea glass or beach glass is the unusual case where nature has taken something man has discarded and turned it into a beautiful one of a kind gem. Most sea glass comes from broken bottles and jars but sea glass may also come from dishes, art glass, nautical lights, old glass rear car lights, perfume bottles or anything glass that has found its way into the sea or ocean. There it is smoothed by the actions of waves, sand and stone to create these lovely colorful pieces of sea glass. Sea glass, seaglass, beach glass, beachglass and mermaids tears are common terms used to describe this lovely genuine sea glass. It can be found in a rainbow of colors and in many different shapes, sizes and quality.
What is the source of colored sea glass? How rare is it to find colored pieces of sea glass?
Red, yellow and orange sea glass pieces are extremely rare to find given their origins were most likely special art glass not produced in quantity. Red sea glass also comes from old nautical lights and car tail lights. Small amounts of gold give red it's color. "True" lavender or purple colors of glass are also extremely rare and may come from old perfume bottles. Cobalt blue and cornflower blue are probably the most popular colors of sea glass. Rare to find, these pieces often came from old medicine bottles, perfume bottles or jars. Recently blue wine and vodka bottles are being produced and found as sea glass which in most cases are not very well "done" or frosted pieces of sea glass as not enough time has passed. Turquoise blue/green is a very rare color of blue to find and is coveted by many sea glass collectors. Browns, greens and whites are the most common, but ambers, smoky white, olive green and "Vaseline" green glass are more rare to find. There is pinkish glass that comes from very old white sea glass that has been exposed to UV rays or sunlight and has turned a pinkish color due to the effects of UV on materials in the glass. Opaque glass in all colors is also a grand find and comes mostly from dishes and jars among other containers.
How can I figure out the age of the sea glass I find?
Often it is very difficult or inconclusive identifying exactly where a piece of sea glass comes from or how old it is, however, there are things to look for that may assist you. Decades old sea glass will typically have rounded edges and small tell tale "c" markings or pitting on the surface. Often not visible to the eye, these "c"marks will verify the authenticity of sea glass and to a certain extent the age. The small "c" markings are not known to be something one can artificially reproduce effectively. The pitted, frosted surface of genuine sea glass is also a good indicator of age. Rounded edges in combination with the above indicate the glass has been tumbling for quite some time. The color of the sea glass helps to identify its age as some colors were not produced much or at all after a certain period of time. The location the sea glass is found can also be helpful. For example there is rare English sea glass that can be found at a beach below the site of a late 1800's glass factory. Much of the glass found here is likely over 100 years old!
The frosted effect on many pieces of sea glass found along the beach is from years of being in the salt water that over time leaches certain materials in the glass and hydration occurs in the glass giving it that lovely frosted appearance. Adding to the mystique of sea glass, even scientists debate whether glass can be classified as liquid or solid given its unusual structure - many say it is both! There is still more to learn about the almost magical transformation sea glass takes in the ocean. It leaves one wondering about the origins of each piece and the journey it takes to become that singular piece glinting in the sun on that warm summers day at the beach just waiting to be found by you.
Manmade Sea Glass
The popularity of sea glass has grown tremendously in recent years and so has scarcity of natural or genuine sea glass. As a result of this scarcity, some sea glass jewelry designers use man made sea glass or glass that has been manufactured. This glass tends to be very uniform or chunky with no frosted surface. But some has been manufactured to look like natural sea glass. This glass is often called cultured sea glass and sometimes may have some frosted-like surface that is an effect created with an acid etching process. This process can also create a pitted or etched appearance. Sometimes even the experts may be fooled.