By Carol Fezuk
This article was written in The Best Places In Town Complimentary Summer/Fall 08 edition.
The Southern Delaware resort are will welcome Sea glass lovers from around the world on October 11th and 12th 2008, when the Third Annual North American Sea Glass Festival commences at the Virden Conference Center on the University of Delaware campus in Lewes.
This year, with ever-increasing numbers of sea glass professionals and treasure hunters looking to connect, the Festival hopes to draw an even larger international audience of collectors, artisans, nationally-known authors, and basic beachcombers interested in swapping sea glass stories; exhibiting their art and craftsmanship and sharing their tiny treasures with others of like mind.
According to the festival’s local contact, Michele Buckler owner of Sand N Stones, Delaware & Nature Shop in Lewes , “In addition to lectures and seminars, the international ‘Shard of the Year’ contest will be held, awarding a $1,000.00 cash prize to the collector with the most rare and desirable piece of sea glass,” Last year’s SOTY contest, sponsored by the North American Sea Glass Association (NASGA), attracted over 900 entries, with a rare orange hear shape shard of sea glass taking home the prize money.
“Some of this year’s festival exhibitors are really rather renowned- they’ve been featured on popular television shows like The Today Show, Martha Steward Living, and in the Washington Post…” says Richard LaMotte, author of Pure Sea Glass and NASGA Vice President- a.k.a. The founding father of the Sea Glass community. LaMotte expects over 2,500 attendees, artists, and collectors at this year’s festival. Visitors from destinations in Europe, Canada and the United States including California, Hawaii, and Washington will converge on the first town in the First State for this unique event.
According to the organization’s website www.seaglassassociation.org , NASGA was formed by a group of professional sea glass collector, authors, artisan and retailers. Their primary goal is to establish a community of informed collectors and sellers of sea glass that is educated on the characteristics and significance, properties and benefits of genuine, pure, sea glass.
In order to maintain the value of genuine beach sea glass, through education, NASGA also established guidelines to differentiate genuine from fake sea glass and standard to which to grade and appraise sea glass.
Genuine sea glass is formed when vintage glass, (beer, water, pharmaceutical bottles, jars, and other vessels) enter the ocean waters through shipwrecks and other natural disasters like hurricanes or an all-too-familiar Delaware Nor’easter. As the glass surface weakens for the action of water, waves and tide it breaks into shards. It is further subjected to corrosive elements, pitting, other natural forces and tumbling actions, yielding pure sea glass with its unique look.
This process can take from fifty to one hundred years, finally producing a quality shard with the customary pores, frost, and luster.
Fake/faux sea glass is created quickly by tumbling or etching by mechanical means and seldom has uneven texture because of the tumbler’s uniformity of design. Modern glass’s chemical etching leaves no pores. Even though fake/faux sea glass has a certain appeal and is less expensive to purchase, it does not have the beauty or value of naturally formed sea glass.
It’s All About the Color
The most common glass bottle colors in the 1800’s were blue-green, green, and brown glass. But by the 1900’s new technology introduced color removing additives and clear glass became the rage.
However, after years of sun exposure the once clear glass turns a subtle arrays of pastel colors like lavender and pale yellow. Orange and red are two of the rarest colors of sea glass.
Supply and demand also helped to make certain colored glass extremely rare for collectors. For instance, in the making of red glass gold ore was added as an ingredient in the glass recipe. Gold was, (and still is!) an expensive ingredient so it was used sparingly. Yellow is also a rare color because the selenium, silver, and uranium dioxide used in the recipe were also costly and scarce ingredients for glass production.
Other unusual, hard to come by sea glass colors are: amber, black, cobalt and cornflower blue, gray, jade green, opaque whites, pink, teal, turquoise, yellow-green, soft greens and purples.
In his book Pure Sea Glass, Discovering Nature’s Vanishing Gems LaMotte categorizes sea glass colors by rarity. He list as extremely rare: orange, red, turquoise, yellow, black, teal and gray. On his rare are: pink, aqua, cornflower blue, cobalt blue, opaque white, citron, and purple/amethyst. Listed as uncommon are: soft green, soft blue, forest green, lime green, golden amber, amber and jade. And finally the common colors: Kelly green, brown, white (clear).
The book’s color rating scale is based on an intensive study of more than 30,000 pieces of sea glass. It enables readers to determine the rarity of each piece in their own collection. Pure Sea Glass is available in Lewes at Cape Henlopen State Park/Seaside Nature Center, Sand N Stones and Packard Reath Gallery; in Dewey at A Way of Life, The Indian River Life Saving Station, and Books and Coffee; or in Rehoboth Beach at Odysea and Browse about Books.
Where Does It Come From?
The most common source of sea glass is mass produced glass bottles for the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some collectors consider collection sea glass, “a form of archaeology” since these vintage relics lay under water for hundreds of years.
Discovered on beaches in shifting tides, where heavy shipping traffic occurred, these well-worn glass pieces pounded by nature’s elements, can resemble precious gems with frosted surfaces, rounded edges, and an interesting range of colors. Turn-of-the-century coastal resort areas with their abundance of tourists and their trash are and excellent source for sea glass.
Tips for Beginning Your Sea Glass Hunt
Ask about ships that wrecked offshore and where the popular beaches from the 1800-1900’s were located. Seek out nautical charts and local maps to locate channels near accessible shorelines.
Talk to waterman. Ask about where the high shipping traffic occurred, circa 1900. Once you have narrowed your “collection zones, it’s best to look for sea glass during full or new moons, particularly in the fall and in early spring after wind and waves have washed up pebbles, shells, and sea glass over the beaches. Remember to scavenge the high- and low-tide lines where stones or pebbles have gathered into beds. To protect your back, pack a stick or shovel to sift through the fertile zones.
Perhaps most important: don’t tell others where you think you’ll find your best sea glass treasure or it may be snatched away before you get to it! Happy Hunting.
The North American Sea glass Festival has grown significantly, since the Lewes Festival. It is the biggest authentic Sea Glass Festival to date, and is held in a different part of the United States each year. To Find Out More about the Sea Glass Festival. go to their website North American Sea Glass Association.org and follow them on Facebook/seaglassassociation.
The 2008 The North American Sea Glass Festival was a huge success in Lewes, so much so, that the Lewes Historical Society started a yearly Sea Glass and Coastal Arts Festival which takes place towards the end of June each year.