I may have come across sea glass during my treks to the ocean, but I never paid much attention to it. I collected shells and pretty much ignored the other sea treasures. Jelly fish and horseshoe crabs that had washed up on the beach were interesting, but I don’t recall finding any pretty, worn glass. These days beach glass can be a treasured find, just like a whole sand dollar or huge conch shell, depending on what you are looking for to add to your collection.
Most beaches have more shells than glass I believe, so finding a bunch of good sea glass yourself would be a rare thing. And have you ever been looking for sea glass or beach glass to decorate your home or for an event and wondered whether or not the glass you are buying is real? Well, it’s real glass, but maybe not real glass from the sea or other water source.
Since glass itself is easy to come by, many places create their own “sea glass” by processing it in a tumbler to sell in bulk more cheaply than hand picked glass from the ocean. They won’t say “hey, this is fake stuff”, so many people just assume that it’s actually from the beach. One of the online stores I looked at for this post was West Coast Sea Glass, who sells the real thing. They explain on their “about page” how they travel to beaches all along the western U.S. and farther to collect their glass. It is genuine, and they have even been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Treasure Hunters” show.
So how will you know the difference between real and fake? One way is the surface of the glass. The pieces that have been worn down in water – mostly the ocean, but also lakes -will have a pitted, frosty appearance. To me the glass looks like it’s been rolled in fine sugar. One edge could be smooth where the class was stuck in the sand. The man-made stuff would have a smoother appearance. If you come across a bunch of the rare colors of sea glass being sold cheaply, you can be that it’s man-made. Read more about how to tell real hand-picked beach glass from artificial tumbled glass at Sea Glass From the Beach.
The California Sea Glass Association has a page of very helpful information where they say that the rarest colors to find are orange, red and yellow. In fact these orange glass, stud earrings are priced at $150 at the WCSG site I mention above. Other rare colors include gray, black, teal and pink. The most common colors are kelly green, brown and clear according to Wikipedia.
Another type of sea glass is the “multies” and you can read about finding multi-colored sea glass at West Coast Multies where the writer tells of how glass blowers would dump their left over or unwanted pieces into a creek and were eventually washed into the ocean where, over time, they were turned into interesting bits of sea glass.
If you are looking for large quantities of sea glass to decorate for a beach wedding or other special occasion you probably won’t care if the glass is real and you will save a bunch of money and have a more colorful display by using the “arts and crafts” glass. If a nice piece of jewelry is what you are after, then make sure you buy something that is genuinely worth the money being spent.