ANTIQUE SEAGLASS

Made by man, tumbled by nature, re-purposed by me.

What is Seaglass?

Pure Seaglass is essentially a manmade waste product that has spent many years, sometimes centuries, in the ocean, being tumbled by waves and wind against rocks, pebbles and sand.

Glass is made by melting minerals like silica (in the form of sand), soda ash and limestone at very high temperatures. Other minerals such as cobalt, magnesium and iron are added to produce different colours or properties.

How do you know the seaglass I design with is pure and antique?

I have personally spent hours, days and weeks collecting all of my own seaglass -  primarily from the world famous Seaham Beach in the UK as well as the Isle of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales. I have also collected beautiful pieces from the Port of Barcelona, Spain, Biarritz in France and along the Mediterranean.

For any sea glass addict, UK's Seaham Beach is considered by many to be the holy grail of sea glass beaches. A long sweeping beach, covered in beautiful pebbles of varying sizes it uncovers its bounty of sea glass with each passing tide. The reason for so much glass on this beach is because this ragged piece of coastline was the site of the Candlish Family’s massive Victorian Londonderry Bottle works factory, which operated from the 1850’s to sometime in the early 1920's.

The seaglass I collected from Anglesey was found at the site of a coastal Victorian dump, which used to bury all sorts of waste in the ground as well as tossing it into the treacherous Menai Strait.

How did the glass get into the sea?

In Victorian England there was little concern for  environmental or marine pollution and so great quantities of glass were regularly deposited into the sea and along coastlines. The Londonderry glassworks was a huge factory and produced great volumes of glass in their furnaces around the clock.

 This glass would be used to produce hand crafted bottles, decorative glassware (such as perfume bottles) as well as functional household glass. If batches of glass were not up to scratch or contained impurities then they were  dumped into the North Sea. Likewise, industrial mishaps sometimes resulted in molten glass spills. Glassware was also shipped weekly to Sunderland and beyond and there are reports of significant amounts of cargo being lost at sea.

How is sea glass shaped and formed? 

The wild and ever present North Sea surf has worn smooth the sea glass found at the Seaham site. The tidal range between the high and low tidal zones is extreme, and as the tide goes in and out with tremendous force and speed, it rolls the seaglass back and forth against the pebbles, grit and sand that comprises the beach there.  

Even though most of the waste from the glassworks was very thick, the constant motion of the tide has worn the sea glass remnants into beautiful round nuggets that resemble the shapes and sizes of the pebbles that surround it.

Likewise, the sea glass collected from Anglesey has undergone a similar journey, the incredibly fast flowing tides that whip through the Menai Strait and around the island cause a similar action upon debris in the water. Glassware that was dumped at the Victorian tip and off the shores of Anglesey has spent countless years being tumbled back and forth by these fast moving tides.

Is pure seaglass rare?

Certainly in some parts of the world it is becoming increasingly rare. Once found in abundance in parts of Africa, the Caribbean, the UK and The States it is now not as easy to collect. This is due to several key factors such as increased environmental consideration as to what goes into our seas, the closure of Coastal Glass Industries as well as an ever-growing army of worldwide avid seaglass collectors!

Fake sea glass is now even being manufactured to capitolise on this growing trend for the desire for seaglass. Fake seaglass is usually easy to spot; it is very perfect in shape and size, has a consistent sandblasted surface and does not contain the imperfections of naturally tumbled sea glass such as little ‘c’ shaped grooves in its surface.

Which colours are rarest?

Even after collecting 1000’s of pieces of seaglass from Seaham beach I still only have a few handfuls of blues and even less of reds. Some oxides - like gold - used to colour the glass were very expensive (and still are) and as a result these colours were produced for more special items. See the image cards below that have been beautifully produced by Margaux of The Italian Sea Glass Association , her cards give an overview of the elements used to produce coloured glass.