This guide was written in order to assist you in your purchase of genuine beach sea glass on eBay. Beach sea glass jewelry, crafts and loose pieces of sea glass can be found within many a sellers listings here on eBay. There is a serious difference between genuine beach sea glass and artifically tumbled and or possible chemically etched craft glass. To a sea glass lover, there is nothing worse then purchasing what was advertised as beach sea glass, only to find that it has never been to a beach and was made a few months or weeks ago in a rock tumbler.
Tumbled glass and beach sea glass are very different in several respects and the following compares the two and their differing features.
Genuine Beach Sea Glass
- Originated from one of several means. Littered bottle, garbage dump, shipwreck, natural disaster such as severe flooding, etc.
- Quantities of some colors are severly limited. Colors such as orange, red, yellow, cobalt blue, purple, turquoise, "black", and vaseline are very rare. You will almost never find good specimens of the previous colors, let alone be able to puchase them for $9.99 a pound let alone a piece with the possible exception of cobalt.
- Sea glass is hydrated and has a "frosty" surface, crystalline in structure. Hydration is the slow process by which when submerged in water, glass has the lime leached out by the contact with water and the lime is deposited on the surface of the glass as crystals. Many good specimens will sparkle in the light. It is impossible to duplicate this process with out actually allowing nature to take it's course and proper hydration requires several years.
- Small "C" patterns may emerge on the surface of the beach sea glass and small hair line cracks may develop on some pieces.
- Tumbling may be uneven, where a piece of sea glass got stuck with a portion of it still exposed, resulting in uneven tumbling and often times triangular shapes.
- Sea glass often times has bottle necks, bottle bottoms lettering and other unusual shapes and distinguishing features such as mug handles and so forth.
- Sea glass continues to go up in price as supplies dwindle (littering is discouraged) and more and more people become collectors. Recent years have seen two books on sea glass come out, C.S Lambert's Sea Glass Chronicles and most recently Pure Sea Glass, written by Richard LaMotte.
Artifically Tumbled Craft Glass
- Originated from either a factory, workshop or basement rock tumbler (in rare occurances people will pick up premature sea glass from the shore and bring it home to finish it off in a rock tumbler). Craft glass may be made from sheets of glass which are cut up and tossed into a rock tumbler and or acid bath. Craft glass also comes from recycled glass bottles and some who are a bit more particular then others will actually seek out old bottles which to then turn into tumbled craft glass.
- Nearly all colors are readily available and in quantity too. Pricing between colors is fairly consistant since one does not cost much more then the other to procure and produce.
- To duplicate the hydration which genuine beach sea glass undergoes, many manufacturers will etch the glass in an acid bath after tumbling it. Improperly rinsed, the glass may still contain some acid residue which is very toxic. Some large craft stores which carry tumbled craft glass caution you against using it in your aquarium and to avoid excessive handling, this type of tumbled glass is often used in the floral industry in vases to support cut dried flowers, silk flowers etc.
- Etched glass has a satiny appearance and will be very uniform in it's finish. It will be devoid of any small "C" patterns on the surface, (which may occur on genuine beach sea glass).
- Tumbled glass is sometimes quite rough and occasionally it may be very well worn, however rough or smooth, all the pieces in the lot will usually be similar in degree of tumbling.
- Many times tumbled craft glass comes in large chunky amorphous shapes, sometimes it comes as nearly uniform squares, triangles etc... if it is recycled glassware such as bottles and so forth, odds are that you will only find mass produced bottle neck or bottoms, nearly all of the glass will come from mass production and in any color.
- Craft glass has a market and I have nothing against it. but the differences are so great that it pays to be informed.
Some Buying Tips
- Ask before you buy, just because the seller is advertising that they have beach sea glass, does not mean that the glass has ever been to a beach, let alone the sea. Many sellers are simply uneducated in the differences between genuine sea glass and artifically tumbled craft glass. Some try to pass off craft glass as beach glass and there are plenty who sell the genuine article, are trustworthy and reliable.
- If the price seems too good to be true, check their feedback, if they sell a lot of "sea glass" then it probably is not a genuine lot of beach sea glass, but faux sea glass. If they never sell "sea glass" or very rarely, they may simply not realize the value of what they are selling, if this is the case, happy bidding. :)
- If the picture in the listing shows very uniform color, with very little if any variance in the hue from piece to piece, odds are that it is tumbled craft glass. The blurry poorly lit pictures are also a red flag, if you are selling genuine sea glass, it's is so beautiful that you would never put up a listing with crummy photos, unless you are just starting out with photography and haven't got some of the basics down yet.
Thanks for reading my buying guide and I always welcome your input, feel free to email me with any comments or suggestions. I will be adding photos in the future, be sure to check back.