Brief History : Sea glass

‘Sea glass’ and ‘beach glass’ are very similar but come from two different types of water. ‘Sea glass’ is physically and chemically weathered glass which can be found on beaches along bodies of salt water. This weathering process produces a natural frosted glass. ‘Beach glass’ comes from fresh water and has a less frosted appearance than sea glass. Sea glass can take 20 to 30 years and sometimes as much as 50 years, to acquire its characteristic texture and shape.

Sea glass begins life as normal shards of broken glass that are then persistently tumbled and ground by waves until the sharp edges are smoothed and rounded. In this process, the glass loses its slick surface but gains a frosted appearance over the many years of being weathered by the sea.

The colour of sea glass is determined by its original source. Most sea glass comes from bottles, a lot of which are waste products from Victorian glass factories or ship wrecks, although it can also come from jars, plates, windows, windshields, ceramics or pottery. The most common colours of sea glass are green, brown, and clear. Many of these colours come from bottles used for beer, or soft drinks. Clear or white glass is also fairly common and is usually from clear plates and glasses, or assorted other sources. Less common colours include jade or amber, forest green, and ice- or soft blue. Purple sea glass is very rare, as is citron, opaque white, cobalt and cornflower blue and aqua. Extremely rare colours include gray, pink, teal, black (older, very dark olive green glass), yellow, turquoise, red and orange (the least common type of sea glass, found once in about 10,000 pieces).

Sea glass is collected the world over as it is a true natural gem with variations in the frosting and pitting representative of the fact that it’s beauty is created by nature, recycling what man has thrown away.

Genuine sea glass is never perfect; it will typically have a frosted finish, surface imperfections and it is rarely symmetrical.

Sea glass is also known as ‘Mermaid’s Tears ‘ as it was said that every time a sailor drowned at sea, the Mermaids would cry and the glass was their tears washing up on the shore.

Having recently developed a fascination with sea glass, I have spent some lovely sunny afternoons hunting for sea glass at Morecambe and Half Moon Bay which I am currently incorporating into some new jewellery designs that I am hoping to list on my Folksy shop shortly.

Watch this space for more information (and pictures) on my own sea glass projects.


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