Copyright© 2006-12 by North Beach Treasures & Peter Messerschmidt, All Rights Reserved
Authentic Beach Collected Sea Glass, Pottery and Artifacts from the Pacific Northwest
Sea Glass Marbles are a fairly rare type of sea glass. As the name implies, these are common glass marbles-- the kind that were popular as children's toys 50-100 years ago-- that ended up getting thrown away, and then ended up in the ocean, where they became sea glass through the exact same process that creates other kinds of sea glass. Whereas sea glass marbles can-- technically speaking-- be found anywhere, they are most likely to show up near old seaside town dump sites. Apart from discarded toys, marbles also used to be put inside early spray paint cans, their purpose being to help mix the paint, when you shook the can.
For the sea glass collector, marbles can become an entire "sub speciality," even though they can be very difficult to find. Marbles can be found with both opaque and transparent designs; some have solid colors while others are patterned. Some are opaque, and some are transparent.
With sea glass marbles "rarity" takes on a slightly different meaning. Marbles as sea glass are quite rare, no matter what, but you also have to consider how rare-- or not-- a particular marble design was, before the marble fell into the sea.
Because marbles start their lives already perfectly round, they tend to be in better condition than most sea glass-- there are no "corners" to chip or break. However, if they get smashed against a rock they will split... and then go on to become small multicolored pieces of sea glass.
Some Special types of Sea Glass
There are a number of types of sea glass that deserve a special mention, because they are highly collectible in their own right, over and above any appeal they may have simply because of their colors. These "special" items include glass marbles, glass beads & buttons, bottle stoppers, UV glass, bonfire glass and any other types of "readily identifyable" sea glass.
Sea Glass Beads and Buttons are quite rare. Beach combers tend to find very few of them because they tend to be fairly tiny.
Keeping in mind that beads and buttons as sea glass are rare-- no matter what-- red tends to be the most frequently encountered color. In general, "bright" colors are more common than "subtle" colors, but overall it is the shape and condition that carries the most weight, in terms of rarity and desirability.
Beads appear in almost equal numbers between transparent and opaque sea glass; the vast majority of buttons are made from opaque glass. When beach combing, keep in mind that many glass buttons do not have holes-- instead they were sewed on with a metal eyelet attached to the back.
Sea Glass Bottle Stoppers typically come from pharmaceutical or chemical bottles (from laboratories) and are quite rare.
The vast majority are clear or faintly blue to blue-green. A few are faint levender or faint yellow.
Brightly colored stoppers are extremely rare and may have come from decorative decanters; smaller examples from old perfume bottles. I have seen stoppers in cobalt blue, bright red, green and amethyst, although I am sure other colors are possible.
Stoppers come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they can be so worn by surf and sand that they are almost not recognizable as a stopper.
UV Reactive Sea Glass is mostly green or yellow-green, and is typically associated with vintage "Vaseline Glass," which was made during the Depression years and forward to about 1950.
This type of glass was made with Uranium salts as a colorant (it turns glass bright yellow, and when mixed with green, creates a luminous yellow-green), which also causes the glass to fluoresce bright yellow-green when placed under a UV light ("blacklight").
Not all UV glass is Vaseline Glass-- certain types of opaque green glass also fluoresce brightly under a UV lamp. Some collectors call this "Jadeite," but "alabaster glass" is perhaps a more appropriate description.
If you have a portable UV lamp, don't hesitate to shine it on a pile of sea glass! You might be surprised at what you find.
Bonfire Glass as sea glass also deserves a mention, even though many collectors ignore it.
As the name suggests, "Bonfire glass" comes about when glass ends up in a bonfire-- or trash burn, at a dump site-- is melted and then re-sets before ending up in the ocean to be tumbled like "normal" sea glass. It can usually be recognized by dark inclusions (sand and tiny pebbles) that adhered to the glass while it was molten, and by a large number of bubbles, which often make the surface of the glass appear "lumpy," even when fully frosted.
95% of bonfire glass is a SINGLE color, but once in a while two different colors will melt together in a single piece, sometimes referred to as a "fusion." Some color combinations can be quite rare, and once in a great while you might even see three, four or even five colors of glass in a single piece!