Sea Glass: Jewels on the Beach

Sea glass are treasures brought to the beach by surging tides. It may be a ceramic fragment, a pottery shard, or what remains of an antique glass bottle. Each piece is unique in shape, color and history. Many are sculpted and weathered by the sea over and over again until they become smoothed, frosted, patinated, jewel-like and utterly collectible. Photographer Cindy Bilbao is one such collector. Some of her sea glass discoveries are shown below.

Cobalt Blue sea glass is vibrant and jewel-like They can be found in old jars, Vicks vapor rubs, medicine bottles, castor oil bottles, glass rolling pins, among other sources.

During World War I, the glass industry replaced manganese with selenium. Over a period of many years, glass made with selenium turned yellow-gold when exposed to sunlight.

Aqua glass has many subtle variations and shades. Mineral water bottles, medicine bottles and ink bottles are common sources.

Staff and students from the School of Indigenous Studies were given a rare treat when they discovered this emerald-colored glass spearhead on Rottnest Island.

Naturally polished sea glass, stones and sand washed up from the Baltic Sea.
Ceramic fragment. Photo: Cindy Bilbao

An antique frosted button found on the coast of Rhode Island. Photo: Cindy Bilbao

Sea glass “mountains”. Photo: Cindy Bilbao

The astonishing beauty of sea glass. Photo: Cindy Bilbao

Sea glass “fish”. Photo: Cindy Bilbao

The iridescence of this shard comes from the minerals that are in the dirt under which
this glass was buried. Photo: Cindy Bilbao

Doesn’t this piece remind you of a Lalique sculpture? Photo: Cindy Bilbao

When the sun is sitting low in the eastern sky, it appears to be trying the hardest to rise above the horizon. This is the most magical hour of the day to beachcomb, before anyone else arrives … The tide on mornings such as this is soft and gentle, so that as you walk alongside it, you can hear the sound of the water receding through the millions of pebbles that line the shore. As I listen to the surf tinkling like this, a sideways glance gives me pause. An outline of something white catches my attention. Its square shape stands out against the roundness of beach pebbles. It is a shard of pottery glistening in the rays of the warming sun.

Excerpts from Cindy Bilbao, Sea Glass Treasures from the Tide, Countrymen Press, Woodstock, VT, 2014.

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