Real vs. Tumbled Sea Glass
What is real sea glass?
Natural, authentic, real sea glass can be found around the world on beaches along oceans or large lakes where-ever man has been and left behind his trash. Sea glass originates from old bottles and tableware, or sometimes the discards from glass blowers that has been broken by waves and rocks then tumbled and smoothed by the water and sand over the course of many years; creating pieces of smooth, worn, frosted glass. Tumbled sea glass, is manufactured easily and quickly from scrap glass or bulk glass meant to simulate real sea glass.
Time, sand and surf are the ingredients needed to create worn, flawless natural seaglass and the Monterey Bay Sanctuary provides just that. Old harbors, piers and beach dump sites are where the best sea glass can be found. At least 10 years of constant action by the sand and waves is needed to wear down the sharp edges and decades more to reach a worn, frosted appearance.
How can you tell the difference?
Real, authentic sea glass will have a "frosty" appearance which is a result of the ocean salt water and erosion on the glass. Real sea glass will also have irregular "pitting" on the surface of the glass. Much like our own facial pores, some are large and some are small. Tumbled, manufactured glass tends to have a smooth, even texture and is most often angular in shape and is often termed as "craft or art glass". A good rule for consumers is to only buy sea glass from NASGA Commercial Members, like us.
Why buy only Real sea glass?
Real sea glass gains it's value by being just that: "real". Most pieces are of historical significance and the time needed to create a flawless piece of sea glass can take decades in the ocean. It is also hand-found and can be quite tricky to find, much like gold or diamonds. Natural sea glass is a diminishing resource, since we no longer (thankfully) dump our trash into the ocean, less and less sea glass will be available in the future.
Why are some colors more common than others?
Green, clear, and brown beach glass is common (consider the most common colors of beer-bottles). Much more rare are grey, purple, bright red, aqua, and the black varieties. Red and orange sea glass are found only once for every 5,000 pieces! The top 3 rarest colors are in fact 1) orange, 2) red, and 3)yellow. It took me five years of collecting before I found my first piece of orange. Yellow, pink, and turquoise are also among the most treasured colors to collectors. The rarity of these colors lends to the very minimal use of such colors in the history of glass production. So finding a nice frosted piece of red can give a thrill much like finding gold!
Why I collect sea glass:
Collecting sea glass is a hobby among beach-goers and beachcombers, and many enjoy filling decorative jars or making jewelry from their finds. It is something that can be done around the world's beaches and enjoyed at any age. To me, collecting sea glass is not only fun, but it provides an almost mediative kind of relaxation. It is also something that I treasure, since I get to spend quality time with my husband and beloved dog at the beach.
Sea glass is one of the very few objects made valuable by the actions of the environment on man-made litter. I make "Sanctuary Art" meaning; taking trash out of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary in the form of sea glass and creating beautiful jewelry. I hope you enjoy my creations and find the pure beauty of sea glass for yourself!
Portions of this content have been provided by the North American Sea Glass Association