by Jean Forman.
What is sea glass?
Walk along a shoreline in Hawaii or on a “glass beach” in California – or maybe even on a remote island in the Caribbean – and you may find a beautifully tumbled piece of glass to bring back home.
Finding Sea Glass
Although plastics and paper containers have supplanted glass bottles, sea glass can still be found on beaches throughout the world. It just takes perseverance and patience to find “gem quality” sea glass.
The National Geographic Society magazine in August, 2008 reported that sea glass is becoming rarer than ever. This is due to the use of other materials, recycling of glass containers, and environmental controls on dumping glass in our oceans.
A program on the Travel Channel, “Treasures of the Deep,” showed sea glass hunters kayaking to remote areas near San Francisco. They shared that certain sea glass colors, such as red and orange, are much harder to find than white or brown.
Is Sea Glass Valuable?
Among sea glass collectors, there are rankings of rarity, with certain colors such as peridot, aquamarine, and opaque white being almost as rare as the reds.
Also, the geographical location of the find can significantly contribute to the value of a piece of sea glass.
Most importantly, however, are the qualities of the piece – the smoothness, absence of chips, and shape and size.
Sea glass is often used in jewelry when it possesses a gem-like quality.
Sometimes a piece has numbers or letters on it, hinting at its previous use.
It can vary in size – as small as a tiny chip or as large as cookie.
If you find a piece that’s still sharp or is not opaque, you probably should let it stay on the beach for more tumbling. The gem like quality comes from months if not years of tumbling by the sea.
Fake Sea Glass vs. Authentic
As with all gems, there are artificial or “fake” sea glass manufacturers who take glass and tumble it in a glass tumbler. This is not sea glass, and it lacks the opacity, rarity, and history of the true sea glass find.
Many sea glass artists refuse to use manufactured glass in their works, but the consumer should be careful to ask whether the sea glass is beachcombed and authentic.
For example, on a trip to Puerto Rico, I saw a vendor selling “sea glass” bracelets at a very low price. When I asked him about them, he said that he painted the glass the various colors (pink, yellow, aqua). It was not sea glass, but had a sea glass look.
I suppose imitation occurs in every field, but why not acquire the real thing?
Making Sea Glass Jewelry
Every piece of sea glass is unique, adding to its value and rarity.
When designing a piece of jewelry, I always start with the color, shape and size of the sea glass before I add gemstones or pearls, silver or gold.
Simple designs usually work better than complex ones, so that the beauty of the sea glass can be appreciated.
Matching pieces for earrings can be a real challenge, since color and shape can vary! It’s all part of the creative process, and I enjoy trying new combinations of colors and shapes.
I have found sea glass in a variety of places, from Spain to St. Thomas, to Hawaii and California. Sometimes, it can be quite frustrating and hard to find, but other times I am quite lucky.
That is why I named my business, “Lucky Sea GlassTM“. Some of my customers have found sea glass in special places they have visited, and then asked me to make a custom piece with it.
The only problem with searching for sea glass is that you have to keep looking down!
Author Jean Forman of www.luckyseaglass.com designs unique sea glass jewelry, using pieces she has beachcombed around the world.
Gemstones, pearls, and fine silver or gold wires enhance the beauty of the natural sea glass in her designs. Each piece is handmade and original.