Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Genuine, Authentic, Natural Sea Beach Glass or Machine Tumbled, Frosted Glass

The adoration of genuine, ocean tumbled sea glass has caused artificial, man-made frosted glass to show up on the modern market.  This mechanically created glass is not sea glass.  Real sea glass is glass that has spent time and a unique journey at sea.  It has stood the test of time and tide, often for decades.

This is what gives genuine, beach combed sea glass its value and significance. The process of mimicking the forces of nature cannot exactly be duplicated. Genuine, authentic sea glass is glass (a bottle, a dish, an old window pane) that was once unwanted and tossed out to sea as refuse.  It may have found its way to the shoreline after being thrown overboard from a ship.  It may have been barged out for dumping by a cargo ship.  Or it may have been pushed off the edge of a sea-shore town's landfill bluff.
No matter how the glass reached the ocean, we are finding that years and decades later, it can turn up along a beach as a gem with smooth edges and a frosty surface.

A truly mature piece can be so well rounded and without blemish that it looks more like a marble than a sharp edged shard.  Historic sea glass can still be found on beaches around the world bit it is getting more difficult to find the rarer colors and fully frosted conditioning.  Most of what is found today is liklely to be 100 years old or less.  Why?  Because mass production of bottles in the US began in the early 1900's.  That's when glassware became much more common in the average household and subsequently thrown out after being broken or unwanted.  Above left: Authentic, natural sea glass collected years ago by me from Pacific Ocean shores.

Some natural factors that help to create a high quality piece are: consistent, aggressive wave action, a rocky or pebbly shoreline, higher acidity content in the body of water and dramatic tides.  All of these factors can add to the quality of a good piece of well-frosted, authentic sea glass.

The Journey:  Most sea glass purists highly value the allure of the journey that the piece has been on.  How old is it?  What was it once a part of?  How did it end up here?  How long has it been carried and moved by the sea?  And who's hands have held it?

That frosty, pitted surface is what many sea glass hunters, historians and collectors admire.  At right: Machine tumbled, craft glass created for floral arranging and landscaping.  Though craft glass and machine tumbled glass can be pretty, it should not be called sea glass.  It's not been through the historic journey that (for example) a 1900's bottle or tableware piece has endured at the hands of the sea's unique conditioning and smoothing process.

Thank you, Mary Beth Beuke - West Coast Sea Glass