Legend has it the sea glass shards are “Mermaid Tears”. It was said that every time a sailor drowned at sea, the Mermaids would cry and the sea glass was their tears washing up on the shore.
Sea glass and beach glass are similar but come from two different types of water. “Sea glass” is physically and chemically weathered glass found along salt water beaches. These weathering processes produce natural frosted glass. “Beach glass” comes from fresh water and due to its different pH balance, has a less frosted appearance than Sea glass.
Naturally produced sea glass and beach glass (“genuine”) originates as pieces of glass from broken bottles, broken tableware, or even shipwrecks, which are rolled and tumbled in the ocean and/or lakes for years until all of their edges are rounded off, and the slickness of the glass has been worn to a frosted appearance.
Artificially produced sea glass is simply tumbled glass, where pieces of modern day glass are tossed into a rock tumbler or dipped in acid to produce the desired finish. Artificially-produced, the glass is much less expensive and is used for making jewelry, but is often passed off as real sea glass.
Sea glass can be found all over the world, but the beaches of the northeast United States, Bermuda, California, Scotland, northwest England, Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Nova Scotia, Australia, Italy and southern Spain are famous for their bounty of sea glass, bottles, bottle lips and stoppers, art glass, marbles, and pottery shards. The best times to look are during spring tides especially perigean and proxigean tides, and during the first low tide after a storm.
Glass from inland waterways such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes is known as beach glass. It is similar to sea glass, but in the absence of wave rigor and oceanic saline, content is typically less weathered. Beach glass from inland regions often has prominently embossed designs or letters on it, which can make tracing its origin less challenging. The outer surface of beach glass shards may also be texturally varied, with one side frosty and the other shiny. This is most likely because they are pieces broken off from larger glass objects which are themselves still embedded in mud, silt or clay, slowly being exposed by wave action and erosion.
The color of sea glass is determined by its original source. Most sea glass comes from bottles, but it can also come from jars, plates, windows, windshields, ceramics or sea pottery.
Lavender seems to be one of the most difficult to me to find on the shores of Lake Erie and it has a very interesting story. Rare shades came from things like perfume bottles and art glass. Lavender was originally clear glass that was clarified with magnesium. The glass has to be clarified with this mineral because the sand from which glass is made is actually amber in color. Over time the sun causes the magnesium to oxidize, creating the lavender color. If you leave it out in the sun, the lavender shade will deepen – I thought this would take many, many years but you can notice the difference fairly quickly (in one year)!
I found this rare red bottle bottom on the shore of Lake Erie in Lake View, NY. It is dated 1930 and internet sources tell me it was likely and apothacary bottle. Bright colors were used for medicine bottles back when medicines were compounded manually.
I love to collect beach glass on my daily walks and it is always interesting to learn more about the myths and history of these shards!