Sea Glass: Collector's Guide

Sea Glass, Beach Glass or Sea Shards
Image Heather (CC BY 2.0)

For those who do not know we call Sea Glass, Seaglass, Beach glass, or mermaid tears to the pieces of glass that we find eroded and polished in the sea, rivers, lakes, etc., caused by currents, waves, sand, rock, pebbles and other agents.

In addition to the abrasive agents we have listed, ocean saline also helps the glass dissolve over the years and give it that icy, frosty, or sugary hue.

Shipping is shards of glass, ever heard them call them marine shards, which have been at sea for more than 20 years, have rounded edges, a sugary-looking finish and small, brighter “C” -shaped markings.

Sea glass, pieces of glass eroded and polished by the action of the sea
Image Love strachan (CC BY 2.0)

They come from crystals of objects that fall into the sea, break and erode over time. They are bottles, jugs, glasses, windowpanes, and much more curious things like car light glasses, or any object made of glass. Many times they even come from landfills or garbage that they dump into the ocean.

Nowadays we live surrounded by things made of glass but the SeaGlass that we find old comes from many fewer objects and sometimes thanks to the color or some relief that it conserves its origin can be traced.

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These glasses, or crystals are very beautiful and difficult to find and are widely used in jewelry.

Here I try to leave a guide if you want to start in the collection of these marine shards.

Differences between Sea Glass and Beach Glass

Differences between sea glass and beach glass
Image hurricanemaine (CC BY 2.0)

Although many people do not distinguish between them and call it Sea Glass or Beach Glass interchangeably, there is a technical difference between the two.

  • Sea Glass: They are the splinters that we find in the sea, salt water.
  • Beach glass: are those found in fresh water, rivers, lakes.

Those that are eroded in the sea have more patina and have a more sugary appearance. Due to the fact that in the sea there is more movement than in sweet areas and to the action of the salt and the different pH of the sea.

Mermaid Tears or Mermaid Tears

legend of mermaid tears or mermaid tears
Image kennakenai (CC BY 2.0)

In English they call them Mermaids Tears, Mermaid Tears. Legend has it that every time a sailor drowned, the mermaids screamed and the tears that fell are the Seaglass we found.


different colors of marine glasses
Image kennakenai (CC BY 2.0)

The most common colors of sea glass include transparent ("flint" or "white", used for countless common bottles and jars of all descriptions, specially manufactured in the last 70-100 years, window glass, tableware, etc.) , emerald or lime. green (typical of Sprite, 7-up, gingerale, and other older sodas) and shades of amber (including brown glass or “beer bottle brown”).

Red, yellow and orange are very rare colors to find, as is light blue-green.

common and rare seaglass colors
Image nathanmac87 (CC BY 2.0)

In some California beaches where the glass before falling into the sea went through the fire we find particles embedded inside the glass, this is called Fire GlassIt is very rare and highly appreciated and valuable, because unlike gems and precious stones where the sharpness, clarity and transparency of the jewel in the crystal are sought, the rare thing is that it has particles.

SeaGlass in jewelry

Sea glass used in jewelry
Image alisonpavlos (CC BY 2.0)

As they are very beautiful and difficult to find pieces, they are used in jewelry and as we have said, this has led to many fake, whether glass or handmade, that is, crystals with a finish similar to that found in the sea but that takes 4 - 8 hours to be achieved instead of the more than 20 years required in natural crystals.

So we must know how to identify a natural one from a FAKE one. Because if we buy we know what we take home.

Fake Sea Glass or Artificial Fake Crystals

As it is a highly sought after product and used in jewelry, and crafts, human beings have tried to imitate what costs so much time in a natural way.

There are several methods to achieve this. Polishing it on industrial turners, with sand and also with acid. If you are interested in making your own, read the article by how to make sea glass at home.

How to know if it is authentic Sea glass

There are different characteristics that will help us identify it.

Sea glass is scarce and difficult to find so if you see that they sell you SeaGlass bags for a low price, you know that it is not natural.

Uniformity: The SeaGlass fake is more uniform due to the industrialized process while the original has more polished areas than others, randomly.

Texture: It is difficult to explain in words better to look for an image. The original presents what they call a more frosted surface, while the fake is more satin, due to the action of the acid they use to create it and, as we have said, it is more uniform.

Glaze and C-marks: Real SeaGlass looks like it is sugary and a closer look reveals brighter 'C' marks from erosion. These marks that are sometimes only visible with some magnification is a clear sign that it is an original piece, since they have not yet discovered how to reproduce this type of characteristic.

Dónde comprar

If you are interested in buying Sea Glass, either for your collection, to make a craft, or an object made with this glass for a gift, look at the following stores.

  • Ebay: A great place to find both artificial and natural Sea Glass. You will find really interesting pieces and with the auctions you can get interesting things if you like to collect. But make sure the parts are original.
  • Etsy: The portal where artisans sell their handmade products on the Internet. You will find a large number of pieces both raw and jewels made with Sea glass. In most sales of artificial Sea Glass you will see that they indicate it as Handmade, tumbled or similar

Buying tips

It's okay to buy artificial shards if you like them or need them for a project. The important thing is that they do not fool you and that both you buy natural or artificial they give you exactly what you have bought.

  • If they sell you many pieces at a low price it is artificial seaglass
  • If all the pieces are similar to each other too
  • Look at the frosty theme and if it has the C marks

Sources and references

To make this article I have been reading and contrasting the information on all these websites.

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