Finding Sea Glass

Have you ever walked on the beach and found some kind of frosted colored ‘stone’. Once you examined the stone, you realize it’s not a stone at all, but some kind of glass. It’s sea glass, the prize find of all beachcombers.  But what is sea glass, how did it get here and is some sea glass better than others? Today, letâ??s examine all things sea glass.

What Is It?

Sea glass is shards of broken glass that are tumbled smooth by the waves and the sand. In essence, the ocean acts like the world’s biggest rock tumbler, turning the glass from a sharp and dangerous to a thing of beauty.

Where Do You Find It?

Sea glass is found on the beach hiding among the pebbly parts of the beach along with the broken shells and the flotsam that sometimes comes ashore. Bodie Island, Pea Island, and Ocracoke are some of the best places in this area to find sea glass. However, it can be found along any strip of beach, from Corolla to South Nags Head.

Early morning is the best time to go sea glass hunting.  Later in the day you will find what has been left from the earlier beachcombers.  Another ideal time to look for sea glass is after a storm. The churning waters brings hidden sea glass to the surface after being buried for decades.  You are more likely to find sea glass in the fall or winter because of the number of storms.

Is Some Better Than Others?

Not all sea glass is created equal, some colors are more prized by beachcombers than others.  Here is an overview of sea glass types. They are listed from the most common to the rarest.

The majority of modern sea glass is thin, and comes in colors like green, white, clear, and brown. These are from bottles, glassware, widows, and windshields. Though I’m sure each piece could tell a story, they are very modern.  Chances of finding it: 1/25

Shades of amber and green are from mostly liquor bottles and glass dinnerware from the 1960’s and beyond.  Chances of finding it: 1/100

Shades of blues, purples, turquoise and blacks are from much earlier in this century. It has always been sort of rare, but with every passing year, it becomes even more so. These types of glass come from medicine, liquor, and cosmetic bottles from the 1900-1930’s. Some of the colors even come from depression era glassware.  Chances of finding it: 1/1,000

The warm colors, red, orange, and yellow are among the most expensive colors of glass in the world and remains so to this day. Because of this, there was never a time in history where it was common or mass produced in the United States. Common sources for include poison bottles, navigational equipment and car taillights. Chances of finding it: 1/10,000

Occasionally, you’ll find a thick piece of sea glass, about an inch thick or more. This type of seas glass is usually white, clear, or green. This is a very rare find, as it is usually part of a shipwreck from long ago. Clear or white is most often from windows, while green is most likely from a ship’s prism.  Chances of finding it: unknown

What Can You Do With It?

Now that you’ve found some sea glass, the question is what do you do with it? There are many ways to use it home or personal décor.

One of the most popular things to with it is to have it wrapped and turned into a necklace or bracelet. There are jewelers on the Outer Banks that will do this for you. However, there are also classes you can take and unique Outer Banks Jewelry kits you can buy that will accomplish this same task.

In home décor, it’s best displayed attached to frame back and hung on a wall. It’s also works great as Christmas ornaments, wrapped in a similar way to the jewelry.  If you have enough, you can even insert into a clear glass lamp base along with some shells and sand.

Commercial Sea Glass

Often, you’ll see bags of sea glass in the retail stores. However, though it looks like real sea glass, the process was completed in commercial rock tumbler.  It’s still a beautiful accent to an aquarium, a lamp or a mosaic. There are great home décor items you can do with commercial sea glass. However, if memories are what you’re after, somehow ‘sea glass’ purchased from a store and made in a factory isn’t the same as sea glass that the â??seaâ?? tumbled and you found yourself.

Sea glass is one of the best souvenirs you can bring home form the beach. It’s a lot of fun to look for and can keep memories alive for years to come. Since fall and winter are the best times to find it, consider renting a home in the off season to fulfill your love of sea glass hunting. After all, that’s when the ‘real’ beachcombers are here.  


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