Beachcombing for Sea Glass

Fragile hearts by Green Wellies on Flickr

A stroll along the beach is always a pleasant way to while away the time, but where do you cast your gaze as you wander along the water's edge? Toward the waves breaking along the shore? At a loved one by your side? Well, if you're a beachcomber hunting for sea glass, you're scanning the sand for a gleaming jewel among the pebbles, shells and seaweed washed ashore.

Sea glass, also known as beach glass or mermaids' tears, is man's trash turned to treasure by the action of the waves. The ocean transforms glass that was carelessly discarded into its waters many years ago into a thing of beauty. The sharp edges of the glass are worn smooth, and the shard often takes on a frosted and slightly pitted appearance. And for the record, that razor-sharp piece of glass from a busted bottle of Quilmes that washed up along the bank of the Río de la Plata does not qualify as beach glass.

As greater concern for the environment has curtailed practices such as off-shore dumping and fewer and fewer products are packaged in glass, the search for sea glass becomes all the more challenging. Smithsonian Magazine recently published an article discussing the increasing rarity of sea glass and the lengths that collectors and artisans will go to in order to find the most desirable pieces.

Some of the best places to find sea glass are beaches located near shipping lanes (sailors of yore weren't the most environmentally conscious lot), so it's no wonder that Daniel and I have had success along the beaches of Necochea. Daniel seems to have a particularly sharp eye, and he discovered several fragments of beach glass on our last visit to Punta Negra. Now that his great talent has been revealed, Daniel is under strict orders from my stepdad and grandmother to collect as much sea glass as possible. My grandmother has a fascination with sea glass, and she proudly displays her collection at the family's beach house in New Jersey.

Indeed, she is not alone – interest in collecting has risen and there is now a North American Sea Glass Association. While I enjoy scouring the beach for interesting shells, stones and sea glass, I don't think my interest even comes close to that of the participants in the "Shard of the Year" contest. If you're looking to round up an entry or two for next year's contest, here are some tips for finding sea glass.

[Photo credit: Green Wellies]

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