By Rebecca Ruger
The Holy Grail of sea glass, orange sea glass is considered by most to be the rarest of colors. You likely know several people who have never found even one piece or have only found one piece. (And you don’t want to be that person who sadly informs the happy sea glass hunter that what they’ve found is actually amber glass, not orange—a common mistake.)
Why is orange glass so rare? It had limited uses, as in, it wasn’t mass produced as bottles or jars or containers—the origins of the vast majority of our sea glass. It was made as art glass, and more decorative items and, of course, as tail lights for cars and boats. Decorative glass has a much smaller chance of becoming refuse and thus finding its way into our lakes and oceans.
The chemical element cadmium, together with selenium, can be added to a glass recipe to produce shades of orange. Silver compounds can also result in orange glass. As with most glass coloring processes, an additive’s resulting color is usually dependent upon the heating and cooling process.
The Viking Glass company, which began as the New Martinsville Glass Company in 1901 in Virginia, added orange glass to their product line in 1964, calling it persimmon. Viking produced hobnail glass items, art glass, ashtrays, vases and many other items in persimmon over the next few decades. Fenton Glass produced many ornamental glass pieces in orange as well, including marigold carnival glass items and their own version of hobnail glass in orange.
To some sea glass hunters, discovering an orange shard remains still on the bucket list of colors to find. But take heart, even though orange glassware was possibly the least color ever produced, the number of items manufactured was in the millions!