Sea Glass Lingo

multicolored davenport sea glass

By Meg Carter

While becoming engrossed in what can truly become a sea glass addiction, you may notice some strange lingo among enthusiasts. On Instagram or Facebook posts, chatter at festivals, and even among the pages of this magazine, you will come upon words that might not be familiar. Whether you are a seasoned collector or just filling your first vase with finds, becoming knowledgeable in the “sea glass lingo” is essential. Below you will find an alphabetical list and a brief definition to help you navigate reading and discussing sea glass.

Beach Glass - Glass that has been naturally tumbled in fresh water such as a lake. This term can be used interchangeably with “lake glass.”

sea pottery blue willow pattern
Blue Willow - A distinctive blue and white pattern on pottery. The tableware that can be found as sea pottery is recognizable by its Chinese landscape and elements. It was first copied and adapted by English pottery artists in the 1700s and is still in production today. If you find a piece of sea pottery and it is blue and white, chances are strong it may fall in the blue willow category. Learn more about Blue Willow History and Lore and Star-Crossed Lovers: The Blue Willow Love Story.

bonfire beach glass
Bonfire Glass - Glass that has been exposed to the high temperature of a fire, possibly from trash burning on the shore. This glass will often have a strange shape. It might have debris of sand or other items lodged inside. Some very special pieces will even have water trapped inside. Learn more about The Journey of Bonfire Glass.

CQ - Shorthand for Craft Quality glass, also referred to as mosaic quality. This quality of glass will be worn enough to be considered sea glass, but may have chips, cracks or rough edges.

Crizzling - This refers to the cracking lines in a piece of sea glass because of exposure to cold temperatures. Similar to pavement, when cold enough, ice expands and cracks making pot holes. The same damage can also happen to glass.

“C” Shaped Pitting - The result of hydration and also a strong indication of genuine sea glass. “C” marks will form on natural or genuine sea glass; sometimes it is very obvious and other times magnification might be required to see the pitting.

davenport sea glass

DP - Abbreviation for Davenport, California. Davenport is well known for its rough surf, extreme glassing and jaw dropping sea glass. Many of the finds are highly recognizable because of their Lundberg Art Studio origin. Learn more about Beachcombing in Davenport, an interview with Davenport Beachcomber Natalie Brooke, and a Beachcomber's Guide to Santa Cruz, California.

Flat Lay - A popular artistic expression among collectors to display and photograph their collection. Often found on Instagram in beautiful arrangements. Pieces are laid on a flat surface creating recognizable images or abstract compositions.

Flotsam - The debris from a ship’s cargo which found its way into the water by way of an accident or shipwreck. Learn more about Flotsam and Jetsam.

glaze crazing on beach pottery

Glaze Crazing - The spider web like cracking that can form on pottery. This defect is a result of the glaze being stretched too much during the firing process and then contracted during the cooling process. This flaw can appear immediately or years later. In the case of sea pottery, being exposed to harsh temperatures can expedite crazing. Being in conditions where debris can get into the cracks also makes the webbing more obvious.

Hydration - The chemical process a piece of glass endures to become a piece of sea glass. Soda and lime, the main components of glass, are slowly drawn out of the glass because of exposure to the water, leaving behind the well known “pitting.” This process along with natural tumbling is what produces sea glass.

JQ - Shorthand for Jewelry Quality. The opinion of jewelry quality varies from person to person, but in general it is sea glass that is free of shiny spots and has no chips, cracks or jagged edges. Jewelry quality glass will also have an overall even frosting.

sea glass bottle kick up

Kick Up - Also called a “push up” is the bottom of most commonly a wine bottle. Often found in black, olive, or brown shades of glass. These special pieces are identifiable by their round shape and protrusive bump.

Marb - Shorthand for marble. Surely on the “must find list” of any collector. Read more about beach and sea marbles ›

Mermaid Tears - A fun, whimsical title for sea glass or beach glass.

seaham multis sea glass

Multi - Commonly from Seaham, England, and Davenport, California, and recognizable for the multiple colors that can be apparent in the pieces. From one color and clear, to a rainbow of colors in each shard, they are truly a lucky find. Read more about beachcombing in Seaham and beachcombing in Davenport.

NASGA - The North American Sea Glass Association. Established in 2006 with a mission to educate the sea glass community and provide a social outlet for enthusiasts through yearly festivals.

Oiling Glass - Occasionally when pieces of glass are very hydrated, they have such a frosted look that it takes away from the actual color of the glass. Using a small amount of oil on the surface can bring out the color once again. This is more commonly done on jewelry to enhance the piece, but can be removed with a little soap and water.

Patina - Normally a word used to describe the surface of the glass. The amount of pitting, the smoothness or overall surface can be explained as the patina on the glass.

Sea Glass - Glass that has been naturally tumbled in salt water.

Sea Pottery - Man made pottery shards naturally worn by the sea.

beach pottery tiles

Sea Tiles - Naturally worn tiles. Mostly found in square shapes, but octagons and triangles and many other shapes are also possible to find. These pieces are identifiable by their shape and color or pattern on one side and a sandy porcelain texture on the opposite side.

Seeding - The highly controversial practice of purposefully putting broken glass by a shoreline to ideally help sustain the quantity of glass to be found. This is also commonly done with sought after colors and pieces such as marbles. Read more about Seeding the Beaches

Stack - The art and practice of stacking sea glass shards has gained quite the notoriety among collectors on social media. For competition or just a fun photo composition, seeing how high you can go is surely a good way to play with your finds. Just be sure they will land on something soft when they fall. Read more about stacks of rocks and more in The History of Cairns.

beach glass stopper

Stopper - A special find for any collector. Stoppers are the “T” shaped circular pieces that usually originate from apothecary bottles. Many variations of shapes and sizes can be found. Read A Brief History of Glass Stoppers, and see some beautiful stopper collections in Beachcombing Showstoppers and They Just Kept Coming

River Glass - Glass that has been smoothed by the flow of river waters. Often found to be much more silky to the touch than sea or beach glass.

Rust Glass - Although you might be excited to find a faint yellow or orange piece of glass, be sure it is not an imposter. In areas with metal debris in the water, it can be common for the rust from those objects to affect the water and glass. Pieces will appear colored when they are in fact just stained by decades of exposure to rust.

Throwback - When a piece of glass is not quite worn enough to keep. As long as it is not sharp enough to endanger someone, throw it back with hopes that one day it will wash up once again. As you become a seasoned collector your opinion of a “throwback” tends to change.

UV - Ultraviolet glass also called uranium glass or Vaseline glass. When a collector describes a piece of glass as being UV, they are referring to its special quality of glowing when exposed to black light or ultraviolet light. The glass has small traces of uranium in the glass mixture causing this unexpected reaction. Learn more about Ultraviolet Sea Glass.

Wrack - The highest point where the high tide will carry debris. It is usually where you will find a line of seaweed left behind and if you are lucky some hidden treasures.

The list could go on and on. Some of these definitions might be slightly different depending on the opinion of each collector, but this will give you a go-to list when you see or hear a word that’s not familiar. Since these are brief definitions, it would be fun to continue on your own and research them further. You will find a wealth of knowledge, if you look into some of the many sea glass books that are available. Hope you now have a good grasp on the sea glass lingo!

This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine September 2017 issue.


what about Georgian safety glass it has pieces of wire inside usually in the shape of triangles sometimes a cross or letter. ?

Roy August 02, 2021

“Politicians, old buildings and prostitutes become respectable with age”
Mark Twain

Seems the same is true for trash

John February 11, 2021

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published