Beach Sea

Beach Sea Glass and Where can I find it?
By Nancy Tanke

I began my journey with  beach sea glass over twenty-five years ago.  Most of the beach sea glass I collected came from beaches of the Caribbean, but I have also collected some in Lake Superior. The best beaches to search are the most remote ones. If you see a lot of coral or driftwood on a beach, you have probably found a good spot to search. Another good sight would be places that can only be accessed by boat.  Another way to find treasures is to repel down into beaches that people can't get to walking on the beach.  Beach sea glass can be found all over the world.  The very best times to hunt for it are during spring tides or after storms.

Sea Glass or beach sea glass is glass that has been transformed into frosted gems and worn smooth by the tumbling action of the sand, tides, waves, and currents.  Most sea glass comes from bottles, jars, windows, windshields, dishes, ceramics, and pottery. 

How long does it take to create a piece of beach sea glass?  Depending on the wave action, it could take from ten to thirty years for a piece to get completely frosted after breaking numerous times in its journey.  Besides wave action, a high PH water helps to pit the glass by extracting the lime and soda from the surface of the glass.  The tumbling action is critical to the rounding process that helps heal the freshly broken edges.  Glass from lakes and rivers is also beautiful.  Much of this glass hasn't had the rigor and ocean saline content, so it is often less weathered looking.  Many people prefer this patina.

A die heart beach comber might ask the local citizens where the the beach activity took place around the 1900's, or where the old coastal dumps were located.  Many bottle, dish or glass factories also used the water as their dumping grounds, so knowing the locations of these old factories might produce great finds.  Many beachcombers will find out about what shipwrecks occurred in the area.  There are wonderful finds on those beaches.  Even places where ships have docked are good sources of sea glass.

Many beach sea glass gems are hidden in rock or gravel washes near the shore.  It is not an easy task to find these gems.  Often the crushing waves and dangerous undertows make it difficult to negotiate if you want to find the really great pieces.  Be prepared to end up with bruised fingers and shins and body parts caked in sand.

Part of the new found appeal of beach sea glass is its increasing scarcity.  Glass containers and bottles have given way to plastic.  Ship wrecks have become rare, and people have stopped dumping trash into the oceans and other bodies of water.  Also, sand brought in to replenish beaches, buries whatever glass was on shore.  Sometimes disasters do help bring out buried glass.  After Hurricane Katrina, huge amounts of buried treasures were unearthed after the water receded. 

The most common colors of sea glass are Kelly green, brown, and white.  These colors are mainly from beer bottles, soft drinks, and juices.  The white is probably from windows or windshields of junked cars.

Less common colors like jade or amber could be from bottles of whiskey, medicine, spirits, and early bleach bottles.  Lime green could be from soda bottles made during the 1960's.  Forest green, ice, or soft blue could be from soda bottles, medicine bottles, fruit jars, and ink bottles of the late 19th and early 20th century.  A light green color is primarily from early to mid 1900 Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper and RC cola bottles.

Purple is very uncommon as well as opaque white (from milk glass), cobalt, and cornflower blue.  Many of the cobalt sea glass pieces are from old Milk of Magnesia, Bromo-Seltzer, Vicks VapoRub, and poison bottles.  Much of the aqua glass comes from Ball mason jars and 19th century glass bottles.  Amethyst started out as clear glass, but because of the chemicals in the glass and the exposure to the sun when it makes it to a beach, it changes to light purple.

Gray and pink are very uncommon.  Some pink comes from Great Depression era plates.  Black sea glass is usually very old and much of it is very dark olive or brown.  All sea glass is much more beautiful if held up to the light where you can see its true colors.  Yellow is often from 1930's Vaseline containers.  Turquoise could be from tableware or art glass.  Much red comes from old Schlitz bottles, car tail lights, or nautical lights and lanterns.   Orange is the rarest.  They say a piece of orange is found out of about one and 10,000 pieces.

Many glass blowing studios would clump together the slag glass at the end of the day.  These pieces are called multis or end of the day pieces.  These are very interesting gems.  Broken vases and such could also end up with two distinct colors from the inside and outside of the piece.

Sea glass pottery is one of my favorites.  I get much of mine from a woman in England who lives near an old Victorian dish factory site.  I have traced some of my pieces to the middle 1800's.

Beach combing offers an excellent way to achieve better mental and physical health through fresh air and exercise.  If you are a true enthusiast, do some homework, but leave the more extreme hunting to the experts.