Sea Glass, Beach Glass, and the Growing Popularity of Collecting Glass Pieces

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There is a growing community of folks around the world who are finding the most amazing glass treasures tossed by the ocean or buried in river muck. There are museums and magazines devoted to these finds, and hundreds of Instagram accounts showcasing everything from bonfire glass to vintage ink bottles like the one shown above. (Photo thanks to Instagram´s @myordinarytreasure, a delightful accounting of the vintage glass pieces Jane finds while digging in the rivers of southern England.)

But not all found glass is equal, or even similar.

Though the terms tend to be used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between ¨sea glass¨ and ¨beach glass”- at least, according to Wikipedia:

Sea glass and beach glass are similar but come from two different types of water. “Sea glass” is physically and chemically weathered glass found on beaches along bodies of salt water.

Sea glass comes from shards of broken glass from bottles, jars, glassware, or even as the result of shipwrecks. Most commonly found glass is from beer, juice, and soft drink bottles. In any case, it takes 20 to 40 years to tumble and shape sea glass into its characteristic frosted look. Collectors often use these found pieces for art, jewelry, or other decorations.

“Beach glass,¨ however, comes from fresh water and in most cases has a different pH balance and a less frosted appearance than sea glass.  These tend to retain their original texture and shape (such as bottles and bottle stoppers) and can be found in rivers and mud banks.

But no matter what you call it, people are collecting it with gusto. They are traipsing along shorelines and mucking about in rivers from England to Japan, India to Italy, building collections, and eagerly sharing photos of their finds online and at glass swaps all over the world.

Glass inspires a sense of wonder. There´s something thrilling about the feel of found glass treasures. Perhaps it´s nostalgia for a simpler pre-plastic bottle era. Maybe it´s the thrill of the hunt for a vintage find or an enchanting piece of history carved by nature.

Or maybe it´s just fun to find pretty pieces of glass. 🙂

Have you found any glass treasures?

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