Gifts From the Sea

sea glass

This time of year, it’s common to dream of warmer locales and strolling sandy beaches. We long for the refreshing salt air and the sights and sounds of where the land meets the sea. You may even have a trinket from your last beach vacation- a shell, some sand in a jar, or pieces of sea glass.

What’s so Special About Broken Glass?

It’s funny that a piece of glass, which would be considered trash if found scattered in a parking lot, becomes precious when it’s pulled out of the sea. At Smitty’s, we think glass is kind of a big deal no matter what it looks like or how it’s used, so it’s not a surprise to us that many people collect smooth, frosted glass from the sea.  

How Sea Glass is Formed

Sea glass is proof that sometimes the experiences we have shape us for the better. Before being plucked out of the sand as a beautiful piece of collectible glass, sea glass can spend decades tumbling in the water. Instead of being a jagged shard, the remnants of a broken bottle or windowpane become frosted and smooth, thanks to years of being churned through the sea, ground against rocks, shells, and other elements under the water.

Beach glass is the term used for the freshwater process of tumbling glass, and the results are usually less opaque than the product of saltwater tumbling.

Best Places to Look for Sea Glass

While it’s certainly easier to turn to an online retailer and bulk order sea glass, that process doesn’t compare to actually hunting for sea glass yourself. Beach Combing magazine suggests that some of the best places to look for sea glass are not only on each of the US coasts but, surprisingly, inland as well.

  • Davenport Beach, California
  • Monhegan Island, Maine
  • Hamburg Beach, New York
  • Simmons Island, Wisconsin (beach glass)
  • Headlands Beach State Park, Ohio (beach glass)

No matter where you stumble upon a jewel from the sea, be sure to comply with any regulations regarding removing it. 

Tips for Finding Sea Glass

Patience is required when searching for sea glass, but there are some more practical tips the experts share to help you have a successful beach-combing day.

  • Go after a storm
  • Search on rocky beaches (vs smooth, sandy beaches)
  • Beach comb during low tide (so more of the beach is exposed)
  • Stand with the sun behind you and look for sparkles on the beach
  • Use a kitty litter scoop or a gold pan to separate glass from sand

What Sea Glass is Used For 

Beach glass is often smoother than sea glass, so it is most often used in jewelry-making. It can also be used for mosaics and other forms of art. Sea glass can be inlaid in resin, used in fish tanks, or simply collected in jars for display. As with the custom cabinetry glass we offer, the possibilities for sea glass are practically endless.

How to Make Your Own Sea Glass

If you’re in a landlocked state or are simply pressed for time, you can make your own tumbled glass at home. Whether it’s as a hobby, or a way to teach someone about erosion, it’s a pretty satisfying experience. 

The rarest colors of sea glass are black, gray, orange, pink, red, teal, turquoise, and yellow. So, it might be especially fun to use glass in those color families to make your own sea glass with a few simple materials. Keep in mind, however, that modern, colored glass is actually colored on the outside. This means that the pigment has been painted and/or baked on the outside of the glass, and will be scrubbed off during tumbling. 

Here’s What You Need to Make Sea Glass at Home:

  • Broken glass
  • Filler material
  • Rock tumbler or cement mixer
  • Colander
  • 5-gallon bucket

Place broken glass pieces in your tumbler until it’s about half full, or up to ⅔ full. Then, add filler material such as grit or sand. The coarser your filler is, the faster the process will go.

Once your tumbler is full of glass and grit, add enough water to cover all of it. You can run your tumbler for a few days consistently, checking on the contents every 48 hours or so. Obviously, the longer you allow your contents to tumble, the more frosted and smooth your end results will be. 

When you’re satisfied with how your glass looks, it’s time to sift the contents of the tumbler for closer inspection. Put your colander over your 5-gallon bucket and pour the contents of the tumbler through. The colander will sift your glass from the water and filler material, while the bucket catches everything. After a good rinse, you’ll have one-of-a-kind sea glass to show for all your (rock tumbler’s) effort. 
If you’re interested in any kind of custom glass shower enclosures, window installation, or custom glass cabinetry, you can browse Smitty’s Quality Glass offerings HERE. We may not specialize in using sea glass, but we know beautiful forms of commercial and residential glass when we see it.