By Rebecca Ruger
Aqua colored glass, shortened from the full ‘aquamarine’ and named for the gemstone color, is one of the most popular of the sea glass colors. Some aqua glass will be the natural result of iron impurities found in most sands. But it also may have been intentionally colored by the addition of copper. The true, rich copper-colored aqua glass is actually less common than cobalt blue glass. Often in the bottle collecting world, aqua refers to the pale blue-ish green tint of glass, the ‘natural made’ iron in the sand glass. In the sea glass world, aqua is the brighter more-blue-than-green glass we so happily find upon the shores.
Aqua is the typical color used in fruit jars and so many other American made bottles made prior to the first quarter of the 20th century. Sometimes called “Ball Blue”, in reference to Ball canning jars, which originated with the jar production of the Ball Bros. Glass Mfg. Co in Muncie, Indiana, most of which were made in the deeper shade of aqua.
It’s a safe assumption when referring to aqua sea glass found in the United States that it can be dated from the last quarter of the 19th century to the 1920s. Though the color is still manufactured today, it was mass produced in greater quantities during these decades and saw use as Seltzer mineral water bottles, medicine bottles and ink bottles, and more rarely, even as beer bottles. If it’s machine-made and light to dark aqua, this time frame is a safe bet.
Glass insulators are another source of aqua sea glass. From about the mid 1870s to the late 1930’s glass manufacturers—mainly in the eastern US—produced millions of glass insulators. Aqua was a popular color choice for insulator glassmakers and while millions were indeed made in this color, to most insulator collectors aqua insulators are lumped in with clear glass and considered colorless, and therefore less valuable.
Though amber, yellow, pink, green, and blue were the predominant Depression Glass colors of the 1920s-1930s, many manufacturers did indeed produce aquamarine colored depression glass. And even though the color was in the category of lesser-mades, the vast amount of Depression glass made in general still puts produced aqua depression glass into the millions. Hazel-Atlas, founded in 1885 originally as the Hazel Glass Company, was one of the biggest glass manufacturers in the world going into the 1920s. At that time, it would have been hard to find a home that didn’t have some Hazel-Atlas glass in their possession, in the form of fruit jars, lamp bases, oil bottles, shoe polish, and even Milk of Magnesia and Vick’s Vaporub. When they expanded into dinnerware, their Capri aqua glass was made into almost a dozen Depression glassware patterns including Capri, Georgian, Gothic, Seashell, Hobnail, and Eldorado, among others. If aqua sea glass is found with any traces of these patterns, dating and identifying your shard will prove easier.
As with all sea glass and glass bottles in general, the thicker the piece, shard, or bottle found, the more likely it dates to an earlier period. Older glass needed to be heavier and sturdier to withstand its repeated use, rudimentary packing and shipping procedures, and carbonation pressure. However, identifier beware: this mostly true identifying guideline is sometimes disproven by Depression glassware, particularly the sides of bowls and flat parts of plates which were thinner than the contemporary bottles of the same period.