A Little Lesson in Sea Glass

Japanese bottle swirling in the Pacific Ocean

Sea glass has been with us since ancient times although we are hard pressed to determine exactly since when.  Glass beads have been discovered in Egypt dating back to 2500 B.C.  Cleopatra favored glass in her jewelry.  Sea glass wasn’t always sea glass as we know it.  Mythology and the folklore of fishermen and sailors say they are “Mermaid’s Tears”.  Neptune jealous for the affection of his mermaids was known to banish a mermaid to the depths of the sea.  Mermaids are known to swim beside sea vessels for guidance and protection and oft the mermaid would fall in love with the ship’s captian, thus banishment, causing the mermaid to weep and her tears would make their way to shore.  Another tale is of sailors and fishermen drowning at sea causing mermaids to mourn and the evidence would be their tears found on sandy and rocky coasts world wide.  The value of sea glass is greatly determined by color.  Is the color common or rare?  Products that were once stored in glass in the 1800’s to mid 1900’s in many cases have been replaced by plastic containers upping the value of sea glass found.   Finding a piece of cobalt blue sea glass affectionately known as the “sapphire” is truely a coo.  A piece like this may have come from old jars such as Noxema, Vick’s Vapor Rub, and Milk of Magnesia.  Laveners, pinks, purples, yellows, oranges may have been perfume bottles, depression glass ware or even Venetian glass.  Imagine!

One of the most exciting finds is a piece of red sea glass  ” The Ruby” of the sea and very rare.  The odds of obtaining such a piece are 1 in 5000.  The red glass may have come from perfume bottles, mariner’s signal lamps, glass net floaters, old beer bottles or tail lights  from old autos.  This is a thrill for us sea glass collectors.

Not to be under cut in beauty but are more commonly found are the root beers, ambers, greens and aquas and whites.  The source of glass is from beer, soda and water bottles.

These gem like beauties have traveled long and far before being found depending on its source, i.e. shipwrecks, sea vessels dumping over the side or coastal town dumps.  The ocean’s currents are a big factor in where the sea glass beauties are distributed.

A fun find would be a piece of  “Camp Fire” or “Fire Glass” sea glass.  The glass is melted by fire first  and may become joined to another piece of glass and pick up pieces of tar, pebbles, shell, seaweed or develop bubbles and cracks before cooling as it rolls and begins it’s jouney in the sea.  These imperfections are called inclusions.  Jewelers frown upon inclusions but sea glass collectors love them.

Is sea glass “Glass” or a “Gem”?  I’ll let you decide.

The most favored attribute of sea glass is its frosty, smooth, pitted, glistening appearance.  This process is most often achieved over decades if not centuries.  Oh the stories…..   Over time glass being in the minerals of sea water causes the lime and soda to leach from the glass.  This process is called “Hydration”.  The thicker and more pitted the better.

Glass that has been taken into the ocean often is never seen again.  We are at the mercy of the currents and what they deposit on our shores.  So you see much of what the ocean takes in stays in the ocean. If you come across any sea glass on shore it is a great find, a treasure.