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A Sea Glass Addiction

Updated: Sep 27, 2021

Hi. I’m Yvonne, and I’m a sea glass addict. It’s been far too long since my last sea glass adventure, but I suspect a relapse is coming.

A Natural Obsession

I’ve risen before the sun to drive hours to a secluded location, battled mosquitos, brush, rising tides, and once, over slippery rocks in January, wearing flip flops (due to a broken toe). The photo below on the left was my reward.

Perhaps you, like me, can remember vividly the day the sea glass bug bit. For me it happened like this: I was walking along a beach on Maui and noticed a woman sorting through a handful of sand and shells she’d scooped up from the beach. Curious, I asked her what she was looking for.

“Sea glass,” she answered.

“What’s that?” I asked. At that moment, my better angels were probably shouting, “Noooooo!” but it was too late. She answered me, and the hook was set.

So yes, there is something addictive about looking for sea glass. It’s like a year-round Easter egg hunt for grownups. When I lived on Maui, I used to hit my local beach park at the crack of dawn, head bent, eyes straining, looking for a telltale glassy shine in the wash of sea shells brought in from the tide. In Hawaii, it’s considered bad form to collect sand, sea shells, or lava rocks. Legend has it that removing these will bring Pele’s Curse, resulting in plenty bad juju, brah.

Sea glass is different. Unlike collecting sand, shells, and other of nature’s gifts, I experience no guilt in collecting sea glass. It was once trash, after all, broken shards that, over many years, Nature’s patient, relentless labor has fashioned into charming gems.

We throw in garbage, and Nature sends back beauty.

As a small token of appreciation, whenever I treasure hunt, I bring a separate bag and pick up any real trash I find. I like to think Mother Nature and Pele would approve.

Where to Find Sea Glass

Once I was fully bitten, I began to search for sea glass beaches far and wide. I’ve planned entire vacations around these searches. But sea glass locations are a bit like fishing holes; collectors tend to keep them as closely guarded secrets. So I set out on a new quest, to catalog the best sea glass locations throughout the world. Several months later, that quest culminated in a short book, How to Find Sea Glass: Sea Glass Locations Throughout the World, which I authored under the pen name, Celeste Mapleton.

In the book, I tried to include what I would want to see in a sea glass guide: location, the type of glass a searcher would be likely to find, how abundant it is, and what the access is like. Locations range from the Pacific Northwest to the Eastern seaboard, and international locations, such as Japan; Australia, Curacao--even Russia, with a beach that sounds so promising I may end up there, even though Russia has never been on my bucket list.

There are even a handful of sea glass beaches inland in the U.S. where you would least expect them. Wisconsin? Ohio? Who knew?

A good rule of thumb when looking for sea glass is like attracts like. Any beach that has small pebbles and rocks or small sea shells has potential for sea glass. You don’t want a clean, pristine, sandy beach for sea glass hunting. You want a “dirty beach” –one littered with shells, seaweed, and small pebbles.

Anywhere the ocean rushes in, such as a harbor, could be a sea glass site. I found (and to my chagrin, later lost) a sizable piece of yellow sea glass at Kahului Harbor on Maui when I was participating in a beach clean-up. (The ocean giveth, and the ocean taketh away.) And, as any sea glass collector knows, look for beaches near abandoned offshore dumps, beaches near old factories, forts, and wharves. Quantities of glass were often thrown from boats into the ocean while the boat was docked.

What To Do With Your Sea Glass

Once you’ve amassed a decent collection, you may be wondering what to do with your bounty. Sea glass can be made into jewelry or art objects (stepping stones, coasters, mobiles) or simply displayed for its beauty. I finally found a letterpress tray I’d been looking for and will paint it white, then use it to display some of my sea glass pieces. In the meantime, it lives, separate by colors, in studio art tea bowls in a glass display case. Other ways to display sea glass are in shadow boxes, acrylic jewelry, and specimen boxes.

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