"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

October 21, 2015

Sea Glass & Glass Beaches

"One man's trash is another man's treasure..."

Through a little research I’ve read there is a difference between sea glass and beach glass. Sea glass refers to salt water glass and beach glass refers to fresh water glass. The difference being that glass slowly dissolves in salt water, which gives sea glass a satin-like patina, while it does not dissolve in freshwater. Long ago stories were told that these types of glass were “Mermaid Tears”. It was said that every time a sailor drowned at sea, the Mermaids would cry and the sea glass was their tears washing up on the shore. 
Sea and beach glass can be found everywhere in the world, because people have used the oceans and water bodies to dispose of trash. It was natural for waterfront communities up until the mid 1960’s to discard their trash in the water because the water carried it away. A hundred years ago landfills were considered a health hazard, filled with rats that carried diseases.  

Sea Glass value is partially determined by its color. Red, blue, lavender, purple and pink are rare because fewer items were stored in containers made of these colors. Cobalt Blue, the "sapphire" of the beach, came from such apothecary items as Milk of Magnesia, Vicks Vapor Rub, Noxzema, Nivea, and Bromo Seltzer bottles, along with some prescription bottles. The extremely rare red pieces, or "rubies" of the beach, may come from perfume bottles, the tail lights on old automobiles, lanterns and traffic light lenses. Gemological terms like "inclusions", "clarity", "color", "facets" and "purity" also relate directly to sea glass, except that inclusions and "impurities" are a good thing in sea glass.  

Pinks, lavenders, purples, lime greens and other rare shades came from things like perfume bottles and art glass. Some lavender and pink glass were originally clear, but over time the sun causes the magnesium and selenium in the glass to oxidize, creating these pretty colors. I seem to find these colors easier in Texas where the sun is more intense and the weather hotter.
Glass beaches (the kind found in Fort Bragg, CA or on Kauai) are close to areas that were originally used as dumps, but sea glass can also be found on lots of other beaches because of storms, dumping from ships and glass that is drawn off the beach by the sea and distributed by the "longshore currents". The best beaches to find sea glass are those where few people can get to, beaches accessible only by boat. 
There are three Glass Beach sites in Fort Bragg where trash was dumped into the ocean between 1906 and 1967. Site Two (1943-1949) and Three (1949–1967 - "Glass Beach") are located at the end of the path that begins on the corner of Elm Street and Glass Beach Drive. These sites are accessible by foot and a short climb down the cliffs that surround the beach. Between 1,000 to 1,200 tourists visit Fort Bragg's glass beaches each day in the summer. Most collect some glass. Because of this and also because of natural factors, the glass is slowly diminishing.  
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