Sea Glass Jewelry… Get Out the Drill!
Oh, what a story sea glass would tell. Can’t argue that it’s fascinating, peculiar and irresistible. And more popular than we ever thought. Did you know there’s a North American Sea Glass Association? And did you know there’s a Sea Glass festival? There is. This year its in Hyannis, Massachusetts and it’ll have vendors with sea glass sold as jewelry or in the raw. What exactly is sea glass? Lemme tell you about it…
What is sea glass?
Glass. Yes, it is. From bottles, dishes, or other glass items that somehow found it to the ocean. It could have been from fishermen smashing their beer bottles against the rocks after a long day at sea, or from a factory built ocean side that discarded irregular pieces into the briny abyss. Perhaps it was from a shipwreck! Its possible. Long ago we used the ocean as our trash dump, and I’m sure there’s glass still lingering and lolling on the ocean floor. Sea glass is tumbled in the surf, against rocks and sand and stone, its edges smoothed over time, and a stippled and worn texture is created over the glass surface making it frosted looking. This is sea glass.
Where do I find it?
Real sea glass is getting harder to find these days. You can look at the ocean beaches, under bridges that cross over the ocean water. Usually if you find a few pieces, you’ll find more.
Artificial sea glass
There is such a thing as artificial sea glass, or man made sea glass. This is new glass that’s been obtained by either purchasing, recycling, or recovering from the trash. Many times old bottles and other old glass items are broken and then put into a tumbler with sand, stone and water to create sea glass. Other times glass is purchased in sheets, sort of like window pane, and then broken into pieces and tumbled. Acid baths can be done on glass to the same effect as tumbling, but the edges of the glass don’t smooth out. They stay sharp. Of course, you can etch it and then tumble it. Its known that artificially made sea glass lacks some of the irregularities in the surface of the glass that occurs while being tossed in the ocean. Artificial sea glass is too perfect. :-)
Let’s talk color!
The rare? Blue, red, pink, purple, orange, black, turquoise and yellow. These colors were produced in limited quantities in glass in general back in the day. So to find them is a treasure and a treat. Vaseline glass is rare as well… and for a great description of this glass, check out a prior blog of mine called Vaseline Glass Beads (#95). The most commonly found colors of sea glass are white, brown and green. Why? Think beer bottles, medicine bottles and wine bottles. Even the green, brown and white glass will have varying color tones in it.
Jewels of the sea
Sea glass that isn’t made of glass? Yes! Pottery can be churned in the sea as well. Did you know that on Catalina Island off the coast of California once had a pottery factory at the shore...and an earthquake caused it to fall in the ocean. This was during the 1940’s and it was left there. So all this pottery churned in the sea and washed up on the shores of pebble beach where its been picked up for years by passers by. This was revealed to me by Diane Lettenden who was a long time resident of Catalina Island, also known as Avalon, California.
Not into picking up your own sea glass the old fashioned way?
Good news! Good news! You can find our sea glass beads to be so close to the real thing, you’ll be thinking they’re the real deal. Our sea glass beads are made in the far east, with local sea glass as the inspiration. One great thing is that the glass recipes vary, so there’s a fantastic color pallet to be found even within the same tones. Remember this when designing your jewelry since the lots can be different when ordering each time.
Drilling sea glass
So you’ve got your own and you wish to drill it. Ok. I can tell you how that works. What you need is a shallow aluminum can, like a tuna can, and an old kitchen sponge that isn’t too thick. Place the sponge in the can and then cover it with water. A small can is great because you can hold it in one hand and tip it to the side while you drill. This keeps the water where you want it. The sponge can be cut to the same size as the inner shape of the can so that it fills the space. Then it will stay put. Now, place your practice piece of glass down on the sponge. This is slightly different than my other post on drilling beads. I find that a sponge works better than the putty I once used. Consider yourself updated!
Now lets drill!
You can put a black marker dot on the under side on there so you know where you wish for your hole to be, or you can wing it. If you’re using a solid diamond bit, then hold the drill perpendicular to the glass. If you’re using a core bit then hold it at an angle to make a small crescent dent in the glass. Then you’ll have less of a chance to fracture the glass and make a chip near your hole. Now, holding the drill upright so you get a straight hole, drill a little bit and then lift the bit out some to let a little water pool into the hole. This is to cool the glass and bit tip. Repeat until you have gone through. You can go halfway and then turn the piece over and drill again to meet in the middle, if you wish. Either way will work. I just hold my glass with my fingers pressing down on it to keep it in place. You can drill through fairly quickly by going in and out of the hole fairly quick. I use the clock as a reference for my speed….tick, tock, tick, tock. Just remember that you don’t have to PUSH down with the drill. Light pressure is best. And also remember that you’re using power tools and water… this can be dangerous. Use precautions to be safe at all times! E-mail me if none of this makes sense, and I’ll elaborate.
So many options!
Wire wrap it, drill it, set it into a finding, use it in mosaics or whatever your can dream up. Sea glass makes some of the prettiest jewelry around. I’m inspired to visit the ocean and hunt myself… signing off and heading to Mission Bay in San Diego where I hear there’s some to be found. Wish me luck!
“I’ve been collecting sea glass since I was a child. My Mom always had a small vase with sea glass in it, and I aspired to be like her. Now I love any glass I find that looks like sea glass. I wear a piece on a cord as a necklace. I love it!” ~Dorian Moran, collector and lover of sea glass