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San Clemente Journal

Beach Combing Seeking Treasure on the Shores

Jun 08, 2022 10:06AM ● By Anne Batty
by Anne Batty, Editor

In  ages past, beachcombers were said to be mostly males who either drifted to, or were shipwrecked upon islands in the South Pacific. Usually sea-faring men, sailors, castaways, deserters, whalers, or pirates, it is told that they searched the shores not only for sustaining life, but for the sunken treasures belched upon the sands by the ocean’s re-occurring waves. 
In contrast, today’s beachcombers are described as those who leisurely search the beach seeking treasure for pleasure. They may be the enthusiast brandishing his metal detector, the collector seeking the extraordinary, or the artesian searching for something from the sea to use in crafts, artworks, home decor or even jewelry. 

San Clemente’s beachcombers can be seen strolling the sands daily, bending and stooping to uncover the ocean’s plunder. Some seek driftwood, others seashells, but many slowly and patiently browse the shores to uncover the hard-to-come-by, highly coveted scraps and shards of sea glass; a treasure that has gained popularity in recent years. 
The Magic of Sea Glass
Sea glass is found all over the world because humanity has discarded glass into the oceans, seas and lakes everywhere. At a time when the world seemed larger and population was much smaller trash was discarded in the water because the water carried it away; it seemed to make sense in those days.

A gem of many names, sea glass is also called beach glass, drift glass, mermaid’s tears and sea pearls, and among the mystically inclined its journey from trash to treasure is regarded as a symbol of renewal and healing; a metaphor for life. A parable of how one can develop maturity and knowledge while weathering the tides and currents; accepting imperfections, believing that persistence and time will smooth and soften just like the tumbling and pulverizing of the ocean polishes a piece of glass. And if looking at sea glass as a metaphor for life, one might see that although it’s been battered, thrown away and broken down, at the end of its journey there has been a transformation into something far more magnificent and desirable than even imaginable.

Transformed by Nature
Although the term sea glass is often used interchangeably with the term “beach glass,” in actuality the two glasses are quite different. Unlike sea glass which is created by the rugged tumbling of seawater waves, beach glass is created in the gentler flow of freshwater sources like lakes, rivers and streams. Typically less frosted and less weathered in appearance, beach glass often retains shiny spots, while sea glass although smooth can often be frothy and pitted in form. 

Both glasses began their journey as nothing more than ordinary glass dumped along the shores; mostly old bottles, jars, broken dishware, glass windshields, and tail lights, remnants from ships and boats, and more. Resulting specifically from trash, it can take decades, even as long as 5-100 years, to pulverize a piece of everyday broken glassware into the pieces treasured by collectors of both forms today.
Uncovering the
Seeking sea glass takes time, at least an hour or two for the search. Combing for this treasure is best done on a bright, sunny day after a storm has passed, as the sunlight shines through the glass making it easier to spot. It’s important to know the tide patterns and to search an hour after high tide when there is the most time before the tide comes back in again. Searching is best along the lower tide line, as glass is easiest to find when wet, but don’t forget the rocky areas as glass likes to hide among the boulders.

Putting Glass to Use
Sea and beach glass are used in a myriad of ways: in collections in unique glassware, in murals, shadow boxes, mosaics and/or stand-alone arrangements coupled with other beach finds like shells or driftwood. It has been integrated into tile work, macramé, dream catchers, mobiles, wind chimes and even Christmas ornaments. It has also been used to enhance clothing and/or hats, but its most popular use is in the creating of unusual, one-of-a-kind jewelry; i.e. earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings.
Like all things, beachcombing has evolved through the ages. Although its discoveries may not provide the sustenance, shelter and treasures of times gone by, it remains a treasure hunt. A hunt that today stimulates a new enjoyment and excitement in the discovery, as well as a creative usefulness that was most-likely never imagined before. 

Sea Glass  Colors/Origins

• CLEAR: soda, liquor and wine bottles, glass food containers, Mason and Ball canning jars, milk and medicine bottles.
• BROWN: beer, root beer and whiskey bottles, old Clorox and Lysol product bottles.
• KELLY GREEN: soda and beer bottles.

• SEA FOAM: common in late 1800, 1900 coke, mineral water, baking soda, fruit and ink bottles.
• FOREST GREEN: beer and wine bottles and art glass.
• LIME GREEN: beer and lemon/lime bottles.
• AMBER: late 1800 Clorox, Lysol, beer bottles, tobacco snuff, medicinal, and mason jars.

• PEACH/PINK: depression glass made for – 5/10 cent stores, cereal, laundry soap companies and movie theatres.
• AQUA: canning jars, glass electrical insulators, and seltzer, mineral water, medicine and ink bottles.
• CORNFLOWER BLUE: pre-1900 Phillips Milk of Magnesia, Bromo Seltzer, Vicks Vapor Rub and ink bottles.
• COBALT BLUE: post-1900 Noxzema, Bromo Seltzer, Milk of Magnesia, Vicks Vapor Rub, Collyrium eye lotion, medicine, poison, castor oil, glass eye wash cups, ink and perfume bottles.

Extremely Rare
• ORANGE: auto warning lights, vintage Avon glassware, decorative and art glass.
• RED: Anchor Hocking glassware and crockery, Schlitz beer bottles, Avon glassware, car/boat running lights, railroad/ship lanterns and other household and decorative glass.
• TURQUOISE: electric glass insulators, siphon seltzer bottles, decorative glass and Victorian era stained glass window panes.
• YELLOW: depression glass, art and stained glass, electric glass insulators.
• GRAY: leaded-glass tableware, depression glass, old TV screens.
• BLACK/OLIVE GREEN- One of the oldest bottle colors: 1700 liquor, ale/beer, champagne, gin wine bottles.