Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sea Glass and the Passage of Time - By West Coast Sea Glass

"But the sea is a mighty soul, forever moaning of some great, unshareable sorrow, which shuts it up into itself for all eternity.”  L. Montgomery
Sea glass... 'Tis been said that it won't last forever.  Sigh....Does anything good and beautiful really last forever?  Anything?  Not in this world at least.  My beach-trekking, driftwood-hopping knees are thankful for that. I get a new knee sometime this winter. Unfortunately, I've already been told that it - yes, the "new" knee won't last forever.

Sometimes when we must go through a personal change it can feel like a time-slowing endeavor.  We find ourselves being "constructed upon", then awaking, then recovering.  It can force us to sit still for a few moments - or a couple days and pause to think about great things like....eternity.
Thank goodness I have a big window and the amaranthine waves to gaze out apon while I recoup.

Most of us hope to be renewed and awakened during such times of thought or transformation.  As a mom of young twins, I will be happy with a couple days of peace and inactivity.

Sea glass reminds me of ungraspable eternity in some ways. Though its physical attributes cause it to be a temporal thing, the piece itself has been on the move from place to place for an infinity. It's gone from being broken, unwanted, then discarded and through a slow journey at sea for a lifetime (as some understand slowness to be).

But, wait!  If something's been broken then by definition doesn't that mean that it didn't or doesn't "last"?  Usually, the answer is "Yes!"

But who can fathom the depths of such a journey? And who can say how long has it traveled... does anyone really know?  Does "broken" really mean it didn't last?  Perhaps    "broken" could possibly mean repurposed.
To most of us, sea glass represents something of a past that's been resurrected.  It is timeless, nostalgic and archaeologically historic.  It comes full circle and back to us after a journey of completeness.

No, it won't last forever as nothing temporal really ever does.  To me, that's a good thing.
Sea glass also reminds us that this here-and-now isn't all there is, but that there are bigger things and histories that went before us and will complete themselves after us.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Specimens of Beauty - A Sea Glass Album

When does a piece of sea glass become a treasure or gem?  As with every lifelong hobby or art collection, the beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder.  Some of the most common or "industrial" glass shards can be sculpted beautiful by sand, wind and a rugged shoreline. And some are unique because they are highly uncommon in shape, stunning in color and a rarity to find.  Here we've compiled some of our favorite Specimens of Beauty simply because we love to share.  All photos copyright:
This rainbow stack consists of Pacific Ocean pieces that have been in our collection for decades.  We've hiked, kayaked, scaled steep cliffs and hiked some more to gather these rarities.  This stack represents finds that are of like symmetry, similar size and thickness and they represent a fine example of pristine weathering and conditioning. After years of studying the history and rarity of sea glass color we have learned that true orange (not beer bottle amber) is one of, if not the rarest color of sea glass.
Red is highly coveted.  Some even call it the "holy grail" of sea glass. But this little delicacy is likely our most valuable find.  Why?  It's a vintage bottle stopper top first of all; probably from a victorian style perfume vial. It's old, historically nostalgic and flawlessly surfaced without chips or cracks.  Here it is photographed on an untouched beach in Hawaii.
There are several kinds of multi colored or swirled glass.  We'll define three here.  Bonfire sea glass is glass that's been incinerated and the heat melts multiple vessels of varying colors together.  Another type of multi hued glass is flash glass.  This is not bonfire glass.  Flash glass is manufactured to have multiple colors usually of a base layer with a thin contrasting layer of another color flashed or fused to the surface.  The third kind of multi colored sea glass simply originates from refuse glass originally made by a manufacturer or blower. Above: The residual molten pieces were mixed together once various colored work projects were finished. They coalesced together in clumps, pieces or globs, then were "pitched" into the sea.  The surf tumbled the colorful shards smooth.
Blues seem to catch the eye of the beach lovers and the romantics. Mirroring the color of the sea, these cobalt colored jewels most likely originate from medicine or even historic poison bottles.  It's nice to know that something as caustic as a bottle of poison has been recycled into something pure and soothing.  The pieces above have each been tumbling naturally from as many as forty to one hundred years.  Blue sea glass is one of the most popular colors that artists make jewelry with.  See Sea Glass Jewelry Here.
Sea glass marbles are a true catch.  Just like a bottle stopper or vintage glass button, marbles once served a particular purpose at a particular place in time.  The sea didn't make them into marbles, they started out that way to begin with then somehow found themselves along the shore. The sea has rolled them around and pitted them for years.  We wrote an entire blog post about marbles and how they end up on the beach.  See Sea Glass Marbles Here

Thanks for sharing our love for sea glass, The collector/artists at:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Creating Sea Glass Jewelry - A Day in the West Coast Sea Glass Studio


The West Coast Sea Glass studio is a haven of color and creativity. We started out traversing the shores of the Pacific ocean decades ago. We've found rare pieces in every color over the course of our lifetimes. At left: A remote beach on Vancouver Island, Canada.

Our collection is decades old and most people have never seen a collection with as much color, history and variety. So we work hard to explain that ours is not average. It's an older collection, pieced together, one gem at a time, over decades.

Once back at the studio, we always place our pieces in baskets by color category and according to which body of water it was found along. At right: Baskets by color. More about color HERE.

When it's time to design a jewelry creation, just the right piece of sea glass is chosen. Today a very rare, true turquoise piece at left is chosen. The silver is measured, fitted around the piece, cut, soldered and sanded all by hand in our silver studio. No two pieces of sea glass are exactly the same, so the metal smithing process takes time and care.  Some days, we can spend eight hours at the bench grinder, sanding metal into shapes that fit the sea glass pieces.

After all the designing and fitting, the jewelry is polished with special tools, then polished again by hand with jewelry papers or cloth to make either a brushed finish to the metal or a silky, smooth shine.

Each creation is stamped with our signature "sea Star" mark on the back. This ensures its authenticity and workmanship and guarantees you it's a high qualiiy, West Coast Sea Glass piece. 

Left: A sterling silver and sea glass ring, hand made at our metal working station.

Friday, April 9, 2010

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

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Beauty in Sea Glass Collecting

"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came."  J.F.K.

Whether an ocean lover, a nature adventurer or an archaeologist, the hunt for sea glass speaks to many of us.  Is it simply beach combing?  Is it hiking?  Is it artifact digging?  Perhaps it is something of all of these and more. I have spent a lifetime along the sea.  I have found myself there, gazing horizon-ward on days when nothing else seemed to make sense.  I have walked along the shore, I've sailed there, sang there and met storms there.

I am a product of the transformation of the sea.
Sea glass too is a remnant of sorts.  A rough and discarded shard; once useful, yet broken and tossed to the depths.  Nature over time, wind-sweeps us back and forth with the tide.  And along a journey.  Perhaps the beauty we find in collecting it comes from a bit of our own journey.

This deep lavender was photographed after an all day hike along one of Hawaii's southernmost shores. The journey was at a beautiful place but the act of discovering too was magical.  And the pieces found each had their own beauty also.
Once our finds are brought home.  They are poured out, their beauty is admired, the glass is washed gently and sorted by color.  Most collectors find the beauty in sea glass in both the hunting experience and in the displaying of it in a collection.

I sort by color or smoothness and  always categorize my glass according to where on this planet I found it (Pacific, Caribbean, Greece etc.).  Some collectors even create beautiful works of art with their historic glass shards.