Collecting And Decorating With Sea Glass

What is Sea Glass or Beach Glass?

I was first introduced to sea glass collecting by a year around resident of one of North Carolina’s quaintest beaches, Ocean Isle Beach. She was agog with the hobby and gave me a call to encourage my participation.

“Try to find a red piece. Blue is good too. Call me and let me know what you find.”

“So what,” I thought. ” A piece of glass?” Then one day while walking the shores of the Ashely River at the mouth of the Charleston Harbor, I spotted a frosty white piece of glass.

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white sea glass

“This is it! This is what she is talking about.” I had found my first piece of sea glass. I was hooked!

 

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kelly green

Sea or beach glass is broken glass tumbled for years and smoothed by water, sand, gravel and the elements. The term beach glass is inclusive to that found on freshwater bays and the oceans’ beaches. Sea glass refers exclusively to pieces found on salt water shores

Hydration is a slow process in which the lime and soda present in the glass are washed out by the water to combine with other elements. This process, along with tossing and tumbling, will help give the pieces a frosty look. A true piece of sea glass must have two distinct qualities present; smooth edges and a frosty worn look.

Identifying Sea or Beach Glass

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yellow green

Color and imprints are ways of identifying sea and beach glass. The most commonly found colors are white, brown and green. Newer soda bottles, jars, plates, windows and auto glass are sources of the white sea or beach glass. Green can be found in various shades. Beer, wine, juice and soft drink bottles are the most common sources. Brown pieces are mostly from beer and medicine bottles.

 

Many products packaged in plastic today used to be sold in glass containers. Amber pieces come from bleach and medicine bottles. Some of these pieces have numbers and imprints that are visible enough for identification. Lighter amber comes from auto or boat tail lights.

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brown

Old ink, fruit, and baking soda jars are the source of soft blues and forest green. Cobalt and cornflower blues are rarer and come from Phillips Milk of Magnesia, Noxema, and Bromo Seltzer bottles. Pastel pinks and grays are from old Depression Era glassware.

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amber

Red, orange, and black sea or beach glass are the rarest colors for Sea and beach glass. Red comes from old Schlitz beer bottles, dinnerware or auto, and nautical lights. Carnival glass and other dinnerware are the sources of orange pieces.

Dark olive or black pieces are from very old containers used to transport “spirits” in the 18th century.  A rare dark purple, almost black, can be traced to insulators on the bottom of early light bulbs.

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light lavender

Color charts have been created to help identify sea and beach glass, but cannot be totally accurate because of the many nuances in the colors. More uncommon green pieces from very old Coca-Cola, RC, Dr. Pepper and beer bottles have variations in color because the bottles were locally produced. Some pieces that appear as a light lavender color may actually be from white glass sources. Before WWI the chemical used to make glass white gave it a greenish tint. After war broke out the chemical was changed. The replacement chemical gave the glass a lavender tint.

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soft blue & soft green
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olive green & lime green

Common Sources Of Sea And Beach Glass By Color

soda bottles, jars, plates, windows, auto glass

Color Of Glass
Source Of Glass
white
brown
beer bottles, medicine bottles
yellow-green/kelly green
beer, juice, soft drink bottles
uncommon green
early Coke, Dr. Pepper, wine and beer bottles
gray, pink
Depression glass
lime green
1950s soda bottle
soft blue, forest green
ink, fruit, baking soda jars
lavender
originally white tinted by replacement chemical
cornflower/cobalt blue
Noxema, Phillips, Bromo Seltzer, medicine, poison
dark amber
whiskey, medicine, bleach bottles
light amber
auto or boat tail loghts
dark olive/black
old bottles used to transport spirits
orange
Carnival glass
red
old Schlitz bottle, dinnerware, car and nautical lights

Finding and Collecting Sea or Beach Glass

sea foam
sea foam

People have been finding and collecting sea and beach glass for a long time. In the past, the frosty glass pieces were called mermaids tears or sea gems. The most sea glass found has been in the United States from the late 1800s to the 1960s.

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cornflower & cobalt

The best time to find sea glass is after extremely low or neap tides and the first low tide after a storm. The best beaches for sea and beach glass searching are located near what is or used to be the city dump. The most bountiful beaches for finding beach and sea glass in the US have been in Northern California, parts of Hawaii, the southern shores of the Great Lakes and the northern east coast.

Glass Beach, located in Northern California, was the former town dump before “going green” and is a sea glass lover’s paradise. There are reports that it is no longer “allowed” to be taken but if that is the case check out Sea Side State Beach in Monterey. Beaches in the Caribbean are good sources of rubbish from old “rum runners.”

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red & light amber

Sea and beach glass are becoming harder and harder to find because of more collectors and anti-litter campaigns. Avid collectors are willing to travel worldwide to search for their treasures.

If you can’t be near the best beaches to find sea or beach glass you can still find it with some persistence. All of my pieces are from beaches in the South Eastern US. It may take a while to have a sizable collection but once you do you can use your pieces in some beautiful displays and artwork.

Other Interesting Pieces From the Sea

Ceramic shards from old china and dishes are fun finds when looking for sea glass. They make awesome additions to mosaics.

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My rarest piece of sea glass is this dark, dark green.  It is from an old 18th-century spirit bottle.

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Crafting And Decorating With Sea Glass

Decorating and crafting with sea and beach glass is an art form. Artisans create beautiful jewelry with it. Wreaths, wind chimes, mobiles, and mosaics are popular crafts using sea and beach glass. A simple and elegant display with glass containers is an easy way to display your collection. Then your pieces aren’t glued down and you can take them out to enjoy their beauty up close.

Leave it to humans to try to copy what takes nature and time to create. Manufactured sea glass is made by tumbling glass in a rock tumbler. It is sold in bulk and is plentiful and inexpensive. It’s great for those who want to create crafts with sea and beach glass but can’t go searching for it.

Ways to Display Sea Glass

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Glass jars, vases, and baskets are great ways to display sea or beach glass. Purchase a fillable lamp to display sea or beach glass. Glass vases and bowls can make beautiful displays for sea or beach glass.

Purchase a candle in a glass jar. Set the candle in a slightly larger jar. Fill in the gaps with pieces of sea or beach glass.It will look lovely on a patio table–simple yet elegant. The flicker of candlelight reflects off of the glass for a stunning effect at dusk or after dark. Imagine cocktails and conversation with candle light and glasses with sea, beach glass charms attached!

 

Make A Wind Chime With Sea Or Beach Glass

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A clever method to make a sea or beach glass wind chime or mobile is shared by Hannah Milman.  Bottle tops and bottoms are great for this.She learned the technique from J.M. Porter, owner of a sea glass specialty shop in Isleford, Maine near Bar Harbor. She uses 8 poundSpiderwire fish line, super glue and driftwood to create a rustic wind chime. The secret is in tying a knot and cinching the sea glass with the fish line and then using brush-onKrazy Glue to secure. With this technique, no holes need to be drilled in the glass.

sea glass bottle tops
sea glass bottle tops

I decided to give it a try. I am very protective of my sea glass, so I decided to use the greens, browns, and whites of which I have the most. It worked well. The trick is in spacing out the pieces. Cut a 3-foot strand of the Spiderwire.Leaving 7 or 8 inches at the top and bottom, work horizontally to create tiers. Tie knots around the pieces and secure with the brush-on glue. Then tie the strands to a wooden holder, such as a piece of driftwood. Make a rustic hanger from twine.

sea glass bottle bottoms
sea glass bottle bottoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me, collecting and crafting with sea or beach glass is not only an art form, it is a way to recycle. The litter bugs who left all this glass behind left us with a fun hobby and great decorating and crafting ideas!

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