1 Apr 2020
By Kathi Ferguson
Like many things Mother Nature has to offer, the simple, magical beauty of sea glass never ceases to capture our attention. Ordinary pieces of glass, once cast-off as garbage, are rolled and softened by ocean waves and sand, until they become transformed into luminous, velvety pieces of stone, waiting to be retrieved from a sandy beach.
Collectors of these gem-like treasures can be found on many a shore, but some of the most bountiful harvests of sea glass can be found right here on the eastern shores of the Chesapeake Bay.
There is no substitute for time when it comes to sea glass acquiring its appearance. Depending on the amount of wave action, sea glass can take as little as 5 years to form, but on average, it takes about 30 years, and not all beaches are suited for creating it. Because many of our Maryland beaches have consistent and turbulent wave movement and are high-banked, debris is allowed to be “caught” as it is thrown on to the shore. It is also said that the amount of castaway glass in Maryland’s waters is proportionally higher than it is on other coasts due to “industrial-age, glass-using humans” living on our shores for a long period.
Sea glass comes from shards of broken glass which originated as bottles, jars, glassware, and table ware, or even as the result of shipwrecks. Other sources are soda bottles from the 1960s, ink bottles, toys like children’s marbles, and fruit jars from the late 19th to early 20th centuries.
Perhaps the most alluring feature of sea glass is its color, with a palette ranging from the more common whites, browns, and greens, to the rarer shades of blue, pink, orange, red and yellow. Naturally, the hard-to-find exotic hues are the most sought after by collectors. Today, sea glass can be harder to find than it was in the past. Not only are more people searching for it, but many glass items have been replaced by plastic.
The beauty of sea glass has inspired creative minds for many years. Artisans craft pieces of jewelry, stained glass and other decorative items, while many hobbyists fill decorative jars with their collections. It also stirs wonder in those who enjoy tracing a shard’s provenance, while imagining the path it took until washing up on the beach it was discovered.
One thing is certain, as long as sea glass is around; a walk on the beach is not only good for the soul, but can lead to a discovery of recycled treasure.
Some of the best area beaches for discovering sea glass:
Sandy Point State Park
Sandy Point State Park