Marina Malačić is a 21-year-old college student and beachcomber from the beautiful small town of Ankaran, Slovenia. Ankaran is located in the sliver of Slovenia that touches the Adriatic Sea, known as the Slovene Riviera, just under 20 miles from the border of Italy. The coast where Marina beachcombs is home to hidden beaches filled with seashells. But that’s not all the shore offers. Marina also finds glass, pottery, driftwood, terra-cotta, corals, and even old coins, silverware, bottles, and ceramic vases.
Marina started picking up sea treasures at her local beach when she was young as a way to clean the beach of trash, since many kids swam there. It wasn’t until later that she discovered that the things she was collecting and throwing in the trash were pieces of history, including glass, pottery, and coins. Her local beach was so treasure-laden because in the early 20th century, passing Italian ships would dump trash right off the coast. Once she knew about this history, Marina started collecting and displaying her finds in her studio, as well as using them to create jewelry.
Because she lives so close to the sea, beachcombing quickly became a weekly routine. She loves the relaxing sound of the waves and the exciting possibility of every trip. Beachcombing is her therapy.
Marina typically visits beaches with her mother. “She has a good eye for sea glass buttons hiding in between the rocks.” Marina says her friends often cannot believe she finds all of these things on the beach, so she’ll take them along and let them find amazing treasures of their own.
Marina has many different finds that she is proud of, including a 200-year-old Maraschino bottle from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which she returned back to the Cosmacendi Palace in Croatia (now the Museum of Ancient Glass). Prior to her find, there was no proof that the bottle even existed, so both Marina and the museum were thrilled to have uncovered some ancient history. Marina’s also found a bullet from 1888, a 19th century Victorian art glass vase, a French plate from the 1860s, and many glass and clay bottles, coins, buttons, and silverware. Marina would love to find more glass marbles and a shark tooth one day. She’s visited beaches in Edinburgh, Scotland, and in Hurgada, Egypt, and hopes to visit more.
Marina understandably has a massive collection. In the beginning, she would try to use all her finds in her jewelry and home decor designs, but eventually she simply had too much, so she started donating and selling. She displays her best finds on a special shelf in her workroom.
At school, Marina studies Graphic and Media Technology in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She was only 13 when she started her business, Maristella, which has grown into a her dream of a real full-time job. She loves to challenge herself to think outside the box and experiment for all of her artistic creations to create something one of a kind. “I love what I do and do what I love—creating jewelry out of beach treasures and sharing them with the world.”
Marina loves discovering where her finds came from. Following she discusses some pieces that she is currently researching:
A. This milk glass bottle of Creme Jris, a face cream, was made by pharmacist Weiss & Co. in Giessen, Germany. It was a challenge researching this piece until my aunt, who speaks German, helped me. I found an advertising stamp and ad, which helped me find out about this bottle that is more than 100 years old.
B. There was not very much information I could find about this Roncegno blue bottle. Photos of it on the internet show a star design on the bottom, which mine doesn’t have. This bottle is more than 100 years old, and contained either hair oil or some type of medicine.
C. These are just a few pieces from my sea glass and seashell button collection. Many of the black glass buttons were made before 1918, when black glass buttons were a part of Queen Victoria mourning attire.
D. A Snickers pin from the 1994 Soccer World Cup held in the USA.
E. There’s little information to identify this light blue bottle, aside from the word “Magnesia.”
F. This turquoise glass stamp was broken off a bottle. The bottle was made in Zara (today’s Zadar, Croatia) during the Austrian Empire. It was from a Maraschino liquor bottle made by the Calligarich family, circa 1850.
G. Ober Selters Nassau (No.22) bottle from the 1800s.
H. Maraschino liquor turquoise bottle. The bottle is probably from the early 1800s. The letters on the stamp are difficult to decipher on this bottle, which is probably very old.
Maristella always has a collection of pieces she’s trying to identify, including I through M (above). If you have any information about any of her finds, please let us know!
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2021 issue.