After I visited Fort Bragg a few years back I became mesmerized by sea glass. While visiting there, I was lucky enough to visit “Glass Beach” where 100 year old glass is strewn across the rocky beach in three different areas. The sparkling, smooth, and colorful gems were an amazing foreground against the rugged coastline and the crystal blue water of the Pacific.
Because “Glass Beach” is in a state park, they are now more than ever trying to protect the glass from being taken off the beach as it is illegal to remove a natural or cultural object.
Even back then before they enforced it more, I was hesitant to take any glass away because I felt that it should stay there for future generations to enjoy. Lucky for me glass was laying on the walking trails up on the cliffs. Evidently people dropped it on the way to their cars so I was able to bring back a few pieces. In retrospect, the cliff trails might have been part of the state park too but I won’t tell if you don’t.
One hundred year old glass. Note how smooth most pieces are.
I like how you can see the glass in the water too. Here at this site, the glass was 3 inches deep. I hear at the inaccessible site that the glass is three feet deep.
Many years later I took up looking for it in Southern California. Amazingly enough, I find it! Only a few here and there but it all adds up.
So what is sea glass? It is a product of nature and man. Bottles, jars, and various other glass find their way out to sea in various ways. Tumbled over rocks, sand, exposure to the salt water, and currents give it that smooth feel and frosty look.
It can take 7-10 years for glass to become what is considered a prime chunk of sea glass. A superior piece has no shiny spots, is smooth on the edges, and has a frosted look.
Three examples of prime sea glass. Smooth and frosted look.
I have found many along the coast that have those same features. We even had a contest to see who could find the most over the course of the summer. Even though summer isn’t over yet, I am pretty sure I am winning as I have found quite a bunch. However, a few people are hot on my trail.
Sometimes you find a nice nugget but it is ruined because one side is sharp and shiny while the other side is smooth and frosty.
Mostly I find green, white, and amber colors. I saw red and blue in Fort Bragg but these colors are rarer.
Some pieces I have found over the summer. Some are perfect and some are so-so.
If I am not out in the Pacific Ocean enjoying the amazing summer water in California, I am looking for broken shells and sea glass on the beach. If there is an area that has rocks, be sure and look closely because you can find them hidden in between.
I saw a nice sized green piece once as the waves were pounding on the shore. It looked to be a perfect specimen. I was determined to get it even though rocks were hammering my feet and toes as each wave tumbled to shore. I only had a split second to grab it before the wave swiftly receded back out to sea. Once I missed, the next agonizing rock-filled wave would hit my toes with a force enough to make me cringe. After a few tries I decided to give my throbbing toes a break and I gave up. It was time to look for glass in a less painful place, like the soft sand just a few feet away. The allure of finding a good piece made me a little stupid for a moment.
You will find that your friends and family will join you in looking for it as it becomes like a treasure hunt. Every time I am at the beach, I can see my friends with their heads bowed down to the ground as if looking for a lost contact lens. It is actually challenging yet relaxing at the same time.
Sadly, sea glass may one day be obsolete as we use more and more plastic bottles.
For now, I will hold on to my 100 year old glass (From the earthquake of 1909) and enjoy my leisurely walks on the beach looking for the colorful trinkets.
It is funny that it is basically trash, one persons discarded beer, soda bottles, etc. Mother Nature gave it another chance to become something beautiful.
It has been used for jewelry, glass jar decorations, on frames, or just for collections, etc. Some people use tumblers to speed up the process to attain smooth glass for beautiful jewelry. I think it looks awesome, but for me, I want my sea glass to come from…the sea.
Anyway, the next time you are at the beach or along the coast, keep your eyes open. If it is sharp and looks new, throw it back and give it another chance, even if it is another seven years. Then it will tumble around more, wash up down the coast, and then hopefully, I’ll find it!!