Sea Glass: What Is It and How to Find It?

When you walk on the shorelines, you are likely to find different varieties of colorful gems buried in the sand. These pieces of glass come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. In this article, you will learn what sea glass is, how it can be found, and where to find it.

What Is Sea Glass?

Sea Glass

Worn out by the sea waves and reprocessed by the sea, sea glass is a creation of both human beings and nature. When glass bottles, jars, mugs, and other glass items are disposed of carelessly, they end up in the ocean where they are wrecked by powerful waves and recycled by the ocean to form colorful gems that are found on the shore. These colorful pieces of glass are commonly referred to as sea glass.

7 Different Types of Sea Glasses

Although there is a wide variety of sea glass on the seashores, the major difference that exists between these glass gems is the color. When jewelry makers and collectors are looking for sea glass, they go for the rarest colors because they are the most expensive. Other important characteristics of sea glass include size, shape, and age.

Different Types of Sea Glasses

The older a piece of sea glass is, the more valuable it is. Here are the different types of sea glass based on their colors and rarity.

1. Orange Sea Glass

This type of sea glass is considered the rarest sea glass color, especially since the orange color is not very popular for mass production of glassware. So, the only orange sea glass available is assumed to be from decorative glassware such as tabletops, art glass, vases, and traffic lights. In the early 1930s, there was an imitation of orange glass referred to as Amberina, which had a yellow/orange tone.

Amberina was commonly used to make ornamental glass objects, such as vases, tableware, and flower pots. Since this type of glass is no longer being produced, the orange sea glass has become even more uncommon. Therefore, a quality piece of orange sea glass that has been turned into jewelry costs hundreds of dollars.

2. Turquoise Sea Glass

This is another exceptional type of sea glass and a very rare type of blue sea glass. Its scarcity can be attributed to the fact that there is no mass production of turquoise glass. However, the turquoise color is sometimes confused with the deep aqua color. But turquoise has a neon-like appearance.

Turquoise glass is commonly used to make decorative glassware, such as pressed glass candy dishes, vases, and some traditional seltzer bottles. Since a genuine specimen of turquoise sea glass is hard to find, its jewelry is very expensive.

3. Red Sea Glass

Red sea glass is the Holy Grail of most collectors and jewelry makers because of its exceptionally bright and emotional tone. It is also the most sought-after sea glass specimen. Although red sea glass isn’t hard to find, its popularity and high demand make it expensive.

Red glass is commonly used to make tableware, utilitarian products such as red warning lights, and decorative glassware such as bottles, vases, and pots. But despite its availability, a red sea glass specimen can cost up to $300.

4. Yellow Sea Glass

Yellow sea glass is not readily available because there is no mass production of yellow glass in the world today. Its scarcity can be attributed to the fact that yellow is not a popular color for bottles, which form 90 percent of the available sea glass. So, the little yellow sea glass available comes from decorative glassware, such as vases and tableware.

Actually, some pieces of yellow sea glass are sun-colored sea glass. Over time clear glass will turn yellow when the selenium content reacts with the UV rays of the sun. The scarcity of yellow glass makes genuine yellow sea glass specimens very expensive.

5. Black Sea Glass

Although this type of sea glass appears black, it is not actually black. When you hold it up to the light, you will notice that it is actually a very dark olive green. In the early 1700s, black glass was popular for making beer and liquor bottles.

In America, glass manufacturers added iron residue to black glass as a colorant and to increase its strength and endurance. Therefore, a black sea glass specimen is one of the most sought-after gems by collectors and jewelry makers.

6. Teal Sea Glass

This type of sea glass comes from glass bottles and jars meant for wine, mineral water, and ink. The teal color is quite rare because it is half green and half blue. This type of glass was popular in the early 1870s when it was commonly used to manufacture tableware, bottles, and jars.

Today, its production has diminished significantly, making teal sea glass rare and highly valuable. The only available teal sea glass specimens are from the old bottles, jars, and tableware made between the 1870s and 1910s. Ornaments made with this type of sea glass are very expensive because of their vintage status.

7. Opaque White Sea Glass

Also referred to as milk glass, opaque white sea glass was discovered by Venetians in the early 1500s. In America, this type of glass was commonly used to manufacture tableware, wide mouth jars, and other decorative glass items. This sea glass is quite different from other types of sea glass because it is very hard and less frosty. Its availability depends on the location.

How Is Sea Glass Formed?

How Is Sea Glass Formed

The process of making sea glass begins when bottles and other glass items find their way into the ocean. The items are then broken into small pieces by the strong waves of the sea. These shards of glass are then tumbled and ground persistently by the waves until the sharp edges are gone.

As the glass is crushed, tumbled, and smoothed by the ocean, it loses its slippery surface and acquires a frosty appearance. This process can take up to 40 years to complete. A naturally produced sea glass specimen doesn’t have shiny spots, is properly frosted, and has smooth solid edges.

Is Sea Glass Valuable?

Yes, sea glass is a commodity with real value. However, its value is based on its color, size, age, condition, and scarcity. The scarcer a type of sea glass is, the higher its value and popularity. In fact, some sea glass gems cost up to $1,000 or more.

However, the smaller sea glass pieces with odd chips, shapes, and flaws can cost just a few pennies per piece. Also, the cost of your sea glass specimen will depend on whether it has been inserted into a piece of jewelry or not. A piece of jewelry with a rare sea glass specimen may sell for about $300 or more.

Jewelry makers and artisans usually buy the most expensive sea glass pieces with the hope of selling them in different sea glass jewelry designs, while the imperfect pieces are used by artisans to decorate different home décor pieces, such as lamps, vases, tableware, mirrors, and many others.

Where Can You Find Sea Glass?

Sea glass can be found in different parts of the world, but there are some beaches that are more famous for having plenty of different types of sea glass, bottle lips and corks, art glass, ceramic shards, and marbles.

These beaches are located in northeast America, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Bermuda, northeast and northwest England, Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Australia, Italy, southern Spain, and Nova Scotia.

Glass pieces found on inland waterways like the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay are referred to as beach glass. Although they are similar to sea glass, these pieces are not properly ground and smoothed due to the lack of oceanic saline and wave rigor. Furthermore, there are many online stores that sell sea glass gems and jewelry.

How Do You Find Sea Glass?

Since sea glass pieces are only found on the shorelines, you need to visit different beaches and shorelines if you want to find genuine, naturally processed sea glass gems. And because the most valuable pieces are hard to find, you need to know where and how to look for them. Here are a few useful tips to find rare sea glass pieces:

1. Plan Your Beachcombing Explorations Well

You should only do your beachcombing at least two hours before or after a low tide. This waiting period allows the beach sand to dry off so that the colorful sea glass gems can be exposed. It also makes it easy for you to comb the beach. Winter months are also known to be a prime time to search for sea glass.

2. Focus on Pebbly Beaches with Many Rocks

A beach with pebbles and rocks is the best place to search for sea glass. Just take your time to comb through the shell beds and rocks along low and high tide lines. These places hold most of the ocean debris.

3. Use a Zigzag Pattern When Walking

When you are combing the beach in search of sea glass, do not walk in a straight line. Instead, follow a zigzag pattern along high and low tide lines. This allows you to cover more ground and improve your chances of finding the best types of sea glass.

4. Stay in Front of the Sun

If you are going for your beachcombing exploration on a sunny day, make sure the sun stays behind you. This prevents you from straining your eyes because the sun will highlight the sea glass. Also, do not wear your sunglasses because they will affect your ability to see the sea glass.

5. Do It in the Morning

The best way to find the rarest sea glass is to search before everyone else. Therefore, the best time to do beachcombing is early in the morning, especially after a morning low tide.

In Summary

Now that you know what sea glass is and where to find it, make sure to collect as many sea glass pieces as possible on your next beach vacation. With the above tips on how to find sea glass, you stand a chance of finding the most valuable sea glass gems.