From stained glass windows to jewelry, glass has been used to create works of art for thousands of years. Today we’re taking a look at a special type of glass that many people collect and use to make jewelry and works of art.

So what’s so special about sea glass? Would you believe the ocean recycles our trash into something beautiful? It’s true!

Sea glass can be found on beaches along oceans, seas, bays and even large rivers and lakes. These beautiful, frosted, smooth pieces of glass go by many names, including “sea gems,” “beach jewels,” “mermaid’s tears” and “sea pearls.”

Sea glass consists of pieces of glass that have been smoothed over time by the tumbling action of water, waves and sand.

As pieces of glass soak in salt water and get tossed against the sand by the waves for anywhere from 5 to 50 years, all the sharp edges and corners become smooth. The pieces of glass also take on a frosted look due to the way the sand etches the surface of the glass.

Sea glass starts out as trash glass from sources like bottles, jars, glasses, plates, windows, windshields or ceramics. Unfortunately, the world’s oceans end up being a dumping place for all sorts of trash, whether from ships or from those who live near the sea.

Luckily, when it comes to glass, the sea does a great job of recycling pieces of glass into treasures for people to find along beaches. In fact, searching for sea glass is a popular hobby for thousands of people.

Some people collect pieces of sea glass in large jars. Others collect the pieces and turn them into beautiful pieces of jewelry or art.

Many people who collect sea glass also enjoy trying to figure out the history behind each piece of sea glass. One way to figure out what type of bottle a particular piece of sea glass came from is to examine its color.

The most common colors of sea glass are green, brown, blue and clear. These colors tend to come from bottles of popular drinks, such as sodas and juices.

The rarest colors tend to be gray, pink, black, yellow, turquoise, red and orange. These colors come from rare items, such as old plates, wine bottles and boat lights.

Although sea glass can be found all over the world, certain areas are known for their sea glass. These areas include the beaches of the northeast United States, California, northwest England, Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Australia and Italy.

Sea glass can also be found on beaches that border large lakes, such as the Great Lakes. Since these bodies of freshwater have fewer waves, the sea glass they create looks different than that from oceans.

It’s usually less weathered and may even still have some shiny spots. Some people call this “beach glass” to distinguish it from true sea glass.

Today, sea glass can be harder to find than it was in the past. Not only are more people searching for it and collecting it, but many glass items have been replaced by plastic.

Fortunately, there also appears to be less littering today than there was in the past. The increasing scarcity of sea glass has led some people to try to create their own homemade sea glass.

Using different types of glass in a rock tumbler, some people are able to create inexpensive versions of their own homemade sea glass. Unfortunately, true sea glass with its smooth, frosted appearance just can’t be duplicated by such artificial means.

 

50 Join the Discussion

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  1. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Sea glass is pretty cool! I WONDER, is there purple sea glass? Purple is my favorite color!

    Also, have you ever heard of a show called Yu-Gi-Oh? You should do a whole bunch of research on it and do a wonder of the day about it! I already know the clue: Its time to duel with the king of games tomorrow at wonderopolis. Hint, YuGiOh means king of games. Also, you should do a wonder of the day about wonders of the day! Give me credit for both wonders if you do them!!!!!!!!

  2. Wow! Such an interesting fact!
    I might go to Lake Michigan now and look for sea glass!
    I live in Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee.
    See you tomorrow!
    mak – makayla

    • Let us know if you find any WONDERful sea glass, Mak! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and for leaving us this great comment! :-)

  3. This was cool. I enjoyed the short video, too. I watched a show on the Discovery Channel about where sea glass comes from and how it smooths and changes the look and feel of the glass. Plus, one of my mom’s friends collects sea glass and makes cool little projects with the bits and pieces she finds.

    • We like how you share your personal connections to each Wonder you explore, kickingitBI6! We think it would be cool to make projects out of sea glass! :-)

  4. I LOVE sea glass and hunting for sea glass, too. This Wonder makes me want to return to the beaches of Grand Turk and spend a lazy afternoon beach combing in the warm sun!

    • We’re glad you learned something new by exploring today’s Wonder about sea glass, Jacob! Thanks for leaving us a comment to let us know that! :-)

    • Hmmm. Let’s see…if we use the capital letter as a clue…we think we’ll read your name backwards and…you’re Aidan! Thank you so much for leaving us this super fun comment today! We’re glad you learned some new things about sea glass, too! :-)

    • Hello, Emmy! Thank you so much for visiting this Wonder today and for letting us know you love sea glass. We agree…it IS really pretty! :-)

    • Hello, Ninja Girl! Thanks so much for reading through the comments for this Wonder and for supporting another Wonder Friend’s opinion! We think that’s GREAT! :-)

  5. Sea glass is wonderful you guys are AMAZING. :)
    You guys should do one tomorrow that’s about Justin Bieber or any super star. :)

    • It takes a good bit of time to go from “Wonder idea” to “Wonder of the Day®,” Amanda and J’lee! There is a lot of WONDERing that happens, and then we go on a search for the BEST pictures, video, and links to go with each Wonder, too! Thanks so much for suggesting a Wonder about super stars…we think that is a GREAT idea! :-)

  6. We hunt sea glass on the shores of Lake Huron! And YES, there is a purple/blue-ish variety! It’s VERY special if you find it because those color pieces are few and far between!

    • Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your knowledge of sea glass and for adding something special to this Wonder of the Day®, Lori! We’re glad to know there are LOTS of different colors of sea glass out there waiting to be scooped up! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder, Loop! We know of some other Wonder Friends who visit Puerto Rico every year at Christmastime and go on special sea glass hunting expeditions! There must be some really beautiful sea glass there! :-)

    • Thanks for writing us back, Natalie! Lots of awesome people work here in Wonderopolis to make sure each Wonder of the Day® is the best it can be! :-)

    • We’re so glad you stopped by Wonderopolis today and got the answers to your questions about sea glass, Bob! Thanks for leaving us a comment to let us know that! :-)

  7. When I was in Newfoundland, Canada, my family and I collected sea glass on the beach. Sea glass is glass from a recycling can that dumps on the beach. When the sea has a tide, it dumps over the bin and glass pours out into the sea. From there, the water smooths the glass. When the tide comes up again, some of the glass stays on the beach.
    There are so many types or colors of sea glass. I collected some sky blue pieces and I found one with a picture of a house on it. It was so fun to get all this sea glass. :)

  8. Your welcome. I do agree with all those people who think sea glass is pretty. It is. Sea glass comes in so many shades of colors, such as, blue, purple, green, transparent, and red. Depending on the glass bottle or object, the colors or designs can vary; like where I found one with a house on it. It is a very cool material, and I’d like to know more about it, to add onto my own knowledge. :) :) :)

  9. Hi, this is Betty from Mrs. Caplin’s class. I think this is the most interesting wonder I have ever read this year. I learned more than 7 facts. One of the facts I learned is that sea glass can be found in beaches, oceans, seas, bays and even large lakes and rivers. I only thought there were 2 names for sea glass. I thought they were Sea Gems and Sea Pearls, BUT there are 4 different names and they are “Sea Gems”, “Beach Jewels”, “Mermaid Tale” and finally, but not least “Sea Pearls.” I WONDER when the scientist first found the Sea Glass. In Beaches, Oceans, Seas, Bays or large Rivers or Lakes. From this paragraph I learned BILLIONS of facts.

    Glass soaks in salt water and gets tossed against sand by the waves from anywhere 5 to 50 years ago. Sharp edges and corners become smooth because of that process. I also learned lots more facts than that, but it will take up lots of pages, so I can’t write that much. If we ever learn about Sea Glass in Science, I would be an expert at this and get straight A’s.
    Thank’s for this PHENOMENAL WONDER of the day!!!!

    • WOW, Betty! We’re REALLY impressed with all of the cool facts about sea glass you learned by exploring this Wonder, and we’re super excited that you shared them with us today! Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis on your holiday break…you’re a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hello, Mrs. Caplin! We agree…Betty’s comment was AWESOME! We can’t wait to read more comments from your WONDERful “MC” students over the winter holiday! :-)

    • We LOVE hearing from our Wonder Friends when they make personal connections to the Wonders of the Day, Megan! Thank you for sharing your sea glass connection with us today! :-)

    • We’re glad you learned new things about sea glass by exploring this Wonder, Brittany, and that you are inspired to collect it now! Be sure to let us know when you find some on the shore…we’d love to hear about your discoveries! :-)

    • Have we told you lately what an AWESOME Wonder Friend we think you are, Megan? Thank you for visiting this SEA GLASS Wonder again and leaving us another COOL comment! :-)

  10. Hello Wonderopolis!!!!!! I love this wonder!! I never understood sea glass until now when you guys did this wonder, and I am so happy that you chose to do a wonder on sea glass!!!!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Where does sea glass come from?
  • How can the sea recycle our trash?
  • What do people do with sea glass?

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Try It Out

Ready to make your own work of art with glass? Try one of these fun projects that allows you to transform ordinary glass into something extraordinary!

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Explore Science NetLinks’ Materials 2: Recycled Materials lesson to learn about materials that can be recycled and used in new and interesting ways.

 

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