Sea Glass and Beachcombing

By Isabella Ortiz-Villarelle

sea glass beach

Sea glass starts as glass that comes from waste lands, or trash that has fallen into the ocean, and tumbled about for roughly for anywhere from 10-100 years, or more, before washing up on shorelines. Beach glass is glass found by freshwater lakes and rivers. Those who search for and collect the tumbled gems are called glassers, collectors, or beachcombers. Some use the glass to make jewelry, art, and crafts as a business or a hobby.

Beachcombing is an individual “combing” (or searching for) the beach, looking for things of value, interest or utility. When people comb for sea or beach glass, they often consider the rarity of the pieces they find. Certain glass colors and types are rare very hard to find because of the history of their use and availability.

Uncommon and unusual pieces have greater exchange value alone, or in finished projects. Bonfire glass is glass altered by campfire, or dump fire. This glass can be identified by sand and other small objects entrapped in the melted glass.

Beach and sea glass beaches are beaches that have little to no sand and are made up mostly of sea glass. 

According to an article on, there are an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris floating in the ocean, amounting to 269,000 tons.” Little do many people know that picking up sea glass helps beachcombers be more aware of trash from the ocean that washes up alongside the sea glass. Because what they search for started as beer bottles, car, or airplane windows, glassware from storm damaged homes, and even shipwrecks, they are participating in the ocean’s process of cleaning itself. As the tide brings in the glass, collectors find it and take it away.

Read the results of Isabella's poll of sea glass collectors and their awareness of beach pollution.

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2020 issue.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published