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Collecting Sea Glass with the Family


For many collectors it is like treasure hunting inside nature’s finest sanctuary. There is always a new arrival where the water meets the shore, a reward for coming and a memory to take home.

Even on days when the pickings for sea glass might seem slim, there is a lesson to learn.

Teaching children to collect and appreciate sea glass provides lessons in art, history, math, science and physics. The more stunning colors are often from older glass objects. Many haven’t been mass produced in over 50 years and several colors routinely served specific purposes over time. For example, red was frequently used for warning lights, cobalt blue for medicines and ointments, black glass for liquors. Tallying the quantities found by children and sorting by color can be fascinating as well as looking at the effect years of exposure can have on the glass.  Hydrated glass tumbled along the shore has a patina that cannot be adequately duplicated by man. The process fascinates the curious mind at any age.

Tips for Collecting Sea Glass

Getting kids outdoors these days isn’t easy but once they hit the beach it never takes long for them to begin scouring the shores. A great time to go is just after a storm when the tide is receding and a fresh beach awaits its first visitors. Children have the unique advantage of being lower to the ground and often eagle-eyed once trained on what to look for.  Any unique shape or color is the first clue, but keep them focused on the tide lines where flotsam collects or perusing stone beds since sea glass will frequently hide amongst objects similar in size and shape. Look near jetties or other outcroppings on the water’s edge where debris settles. Keep in mind that after a full moon or new moon the tide changes are more dramatic and can provide ideal sea glass conditions.

Most all Chesapeake Bay beaches are public up to the high tide line. Access is best with permission of course but with older children use of a kayak or other vessel can provide many more options. Of course always use proper flotation gear. Check areas where rivers and streams empty into the Bay since debris deposited from tributaries decades ago can still be uncovered at any time.  It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Once children develop an eye for sea glass they’ll have it for life.

Sea glass hunting with the kids is a great hobby to share with grandparents or other extended family members. Many families have done this for generations and sometimes pool their collections or swap their finds to get as many different colors as possible. Of course the hardest color to find is orange. While red and yellow are close seconds, varying shades of blue are frequent favorites and are harder to find since less was produced in the past 40-50 years.  When the children are old enough to “touch only with their eyes” it’s time to take them to antique stores, bottle shows or museums so they can better appreciate glass history.

By Richard Lamotte

Richard Lamotte lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and is the author of Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature’s Vanishing Gems. Find him online at pureseaglass.com.

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