Who's obsessed with seaglass?
Or as some brilliant person called seaglass long ago, Mermaid Tears :)
I have traveled all over the world and never miss an opportunity to sniff out a beach for seaglass.
First, I'm going to give you a quick intro on what it is and then I'll get into all the places I've been, and dream to go looking for it.
Pin it now, read it later!
What is seaglass?
Seaglass is just broken glass that has been in the ocean for a long time rolling around in the rocks and sand eventually washing up looking like a big honkin’ jewel.
Here are some treasures still wet from picking them up off the beach...
I have read it takes about 30 years for the ocean to break down pieces of broken glass into a smooth sea glass nugget. I think it depends on the beach and the consistency of the waves, but we can agree the older it is (or the longer it has been rolling in the sea), the more rounded and jewel like it will be.
The variables needed to align for a beautiful piece of sea glass to be found on the beach are totally up to chance and nature, and completely out of our hands. That’s what makes seaglass so amazing and mysterious!
Seaglass is becoming a scarce treasure because we no longer dump our trash into the ocean (at least not as obviously) and because plastics have replaced a lot of what used to be made of glass so there is just less of it out there.
The movement of the beach keeps things covered for years at a time and I think we will continue to find seaglass for a long time as different pockets of gravel roll up to the surface, but perhaps eventually it will be gone (because people like me have come and swooped it up!)
What kinds of beaches can I find seaglass?
The best beaches to find seaglass are old dump locations (or populated coastal areas) where there is constant wave movement and the right type of gravel rocks or sand.
I once found a beach that was full of beautiful colors of glass, but the rocks were soft, like sandstone, softer than the glass, so they didn't work to polish the glass, it all still looked like broken glass, not rounded. The best geological make-up of beach is granite or basalt or other hard stones that polish the glass.
What to look for in seaglass
1. Nuggety-ness / Frostiness
Of course, you are free to be enchanted by any piece of glass!
But, there is something most really get excited about, nuggety-ness! Or, the stone-like quality that the glass has taken on. When a piece of glass becomes super worn and tumbled, not resembling its once sharp broken shard beginnings and it's sparkling there on the sand, WOAH!
Frosted is the favored term to describe genuine sea glass and a favorite quality that seaglass hunters cherish. It's frosty!
Then there is the most hyped criteria, which is seaglass COLOR.
Seaglass Colors, Rarity & Value
Seaglass color is the main variable for ranking a piece of sea glass for rareness and value.
Seaglass could come from anything; bottles, tablewear, light fixtures, art, etc. and many colors were not commonly made, and even less tossed into the sea, so imagine the luck of finding some of these old bits that have been in the ocean for years, and wash up at your feet 50 years later looking like gems!
Clear glass is the most common and personally I love a good worn down piece of clear glass but most sea glass folks turn up their noses to them. When I find a clear with an exceptionally awesome shape, there is nothin’ like it. But it would be considered bottom of the pot for rare-ness, next to brown and kelly green (beer bottles).
Your basic sea glass hunt, would probably get you a nice little collection of greens, brown and clear and maybe a few aquas.
Aqua and light blues fall in after those three and are favorites for their sea-foam-like, ocean colors. I think they mostly come from items like thick jars and coke bottles.
Then there are the cobalt and cornflower blues falling in behind those, which are always a treat and getting on the rare side.
Purples are quite rare, and dark purple especially! Light purple, I have read, is often a piece of glass that originated as clear, but after years in the sun, turns a shade of purple. So cool!
Teals, pinks, yellows and grays are all very rare and can be hard to find... some beaches, like the below pictured beach in Portugal, teals were quite common.
And last but not least, orange and red are the highest prized colors of sea glass. They are super rare and a good piece could sell for $100 right off the beach! To whom? A seaglass jewelry maker or a seaglass fanatic.
Sea Pottery is also cherished
Broken china, tiles and ceramics are also cherished. Here is a beautiful pile from Portugal...
When a beach suddenly has seaglass
One of my very best days finding seaglass, I was at a beach I walked often (Rincon point in California) that typically had no seaglass. There had recently been a big winter swell and it had rolled gravel that was deep below (or out at sea?) up to the surface where there was usually sand. Among the gravel, like stones, were endless seaglass treasures! Marbles, reds, blues, totally nuggety! Some of the best big pieces I'de ever seen. The only thing stopping me from staying all day was the tide.
Things to keep in mind when seaglass hunting
#1. Tide: Always go at the lowest tide possible (know your tides for safety in cliffy areas)
#2. Look for Gravel: Seaglass sorts itself with other grains of the same size
#3. Storms & Swell: Visit beaches after a big swell or storm, you never know what can show up!
A sea glass huntress usually has bulging pockets, knows the phase of the moon, dreams about rare colors, comes after a storm, may have a snorkel and a headlamp and knows exactly what you are doing!
I found out quickly you can’t just roll up any old day and find these nuggets nestled in the sand. You have to know when and where to find the best stuff, but the best part is, you can ALWAYS get lucky!
World's Bucket List Seaglass Beaches
#1. Seaham, England
Probably one of the world's finest beaches for seaglass...
Seaham in Durham county England was once the site of a glass factory which operated from the 1850s-1920s. Every day, glass of all colors were discarded over the cliffs into the sea. Today, you can find amazingly washed nuggets of all colors. It is especially known for multi-colored pieces (aka multis). I'm dying to go! The above photo is from local collector @kiss.my_glass
#2. Fort Bragg, California, USA (Glass Beach)
Glass Beach is in MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California. Created from years of dumping garbage into an area of coastline near the northern part of the town. It's loaded, but also maybe one of the most high-traffic seaglass destinations. Of course, due to popularity, there is a lot of controversy over this treasured coast. Bucked list!
#3. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico (Playa Capitolio)
Apparently Puerto Rico is just FULL of glass. Every seaglass shop in on the East Coast of the US is most likely getting their glass from PR. Huge reliable stashes of good quality glass! I'll get there someday! Who's been?
#4. Nerja, Spain
In this very touristy hot spot, there is contsant wave movement on the many gravel beaches. Beautifully worn gorgeous nuggets of glass are all along this coast. In the above photo I am also holding white stones, which are just as incredible as the glass. I found this handful of stones and seaglass in about 15 minutes at the beach.
#5. Port Townsend, Washington (North Beach)
This is partially a secret, but I think the word it out. This is the closest proper seaglass beach to my hometown, my dad still remembers pulling up to the sea cliff dumps here as a kid! Every color of the rainbow, almost all worn into lovely gravel like pellet jewels. Do stop into the Siren’s Pub, it’s decorated with mermaids!!
#6. Hanapepe, Kauai, Hawaii (Glass Beach)
Glass Beach! FULL of glass. It's a beach in Hanapepe, Kauai, Hawaii near Port Allen Harbor that is full of sea glass! The beach's regular rock is basalt (excellent for wearing down glass) and the sea glass formed after years of discarded glass has been dumped.
#7. Santa Cruz, California, USA (Secret Beaches)
I shed mermaid tears not knowing where the glass is hiding in Santa Cruz, but I will find it! I know it's there...
#8. El Tunco, El Salvador (Sunzal Beach)
I found so many marbles tucked into the cliffs at this beach in El Salvador. It is an amazing spot holding many colors seaglass! I would love to get back when the gravel is up.
#9. Santa Barbara, California (Rincon Point)
When it's good - it's GOOD. Down-wind from 'Dump Road' I have a feeling I know why after a big winter swell, the gravel comes up from under the sand and... it's holding incredible seaglass. But, you've gotta get lucky, it's usually buried.
#10. New York
Beaches around New York are holding lots of seaglass! For sure these beaches have a lot of glass because of the huge and steady population nearby. Here is a list of beaches to hunt in New York:
#11. Davenport, California
Photo from Rare Sea Glass
This spot is known for multi-colored glass that was coming down a river from a glass blowing business. You might be able to tell what they were making...!
But Davenport hunting is not your average place to hunt - it's a bit sketchy, as Rare Seaglass Davenport tells in this informative article. Everytime I see photos of Davenport seaglass, I promise myself to get there someday. Incredible multi pieces found here, definitely on the bucket list of seaglass beaches!
#12. Peniche, Portugal
I found handfuls upon handfuls of amazing seaglass in all colors in Portugal, especially teal! I never saw another soul collecting glass here... scope out all of the little beaches!
#13. Essaouira, Morocco
I wasn't surprised to find TONS of glass on the small beach outside the city walls of Essaouira in Morocco. Not the most worn pieces, but still tons of treasures!
What to do with all of this seaglass? Make jewelry and admire it!
There are tons of other amazing beaches out there full of seaglass.
Or perhaps, there is just one sparkling ruby red alone on the beach you are headed to....
Happy hunting mermaids!