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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sea Glass Rarities: The Extraordinary Tale of Finding a Red Shooter Marble

For me, beach combing and picking up sea glass and other relics has always been a pretty Zen experience. I get to be alone with my thoughts and just the sound of waves, wind and an occasional seagull.

My "Happy Place"
On most trips to the beach, nothing extraordinary happens... whether in terms of my surroundings, or in terms of what I find. Sure, now and then I am delighted to find something unusual... and even after some almost 50 years of beach combing, the "thrill of the hunt" has never died.

I go out there because it's peaceful.

I go out there because it allows me to disconnect from the world and-- in some odd way-- reconnect with myself and the source of everything.

I have always been somewhat of a loner, so a beach where only a stalwart few dare to venture is my ideal venue to chill out.

I expect that pretty much all dedicated sea glass enthusiasts have dreams of finding "some great rarity" on one of their outings. Maybe it's finding a sea glass marble. Maybe it's finding that first piece of super rare orange sea glass after 20 years of looking. There's little doubt in my mind that we beach walkers have at least some element of the "collector gene" that strives for ever "better and rarer" things.

So anyway, here's an unusual story of finding an exceptional sea glass rarity.

Some years ago, I found myself doing the Happy Dance on the beach because I found a genuine orange sea glass marble. Orange is the rarest color... finding an orange marble is just that much rarer.

The original orange marble... and then a red marble. But it is not
"THAT" red marble.
I celebrated the find with my wife Sarah... who then looked me in the eye and said "Awesome! Now you need to find the red one!"

I usually take Sarah's statements in stride... but I pay attention, knowing from experience that there's always a deeper meaning behind her statements. Sarah also happens to be one of the world's greatest psychics-- far more accurate and insightful than those "TV psychics." It's a bit beyond belief, at times... but it's true.

"The red one?" I replied

She considered for a bit, and then stated "I have been seeing a red marble out on that beach. It seems buried at the moment, but at some point the sea will shift the sands and it will come up, and you will find it."

In a sense, that started the "quest for the red marble," but we all know that we can't expect the beach to serve up particular sea glass "on demand." It doesn't happen that way... but I would always be looking specifically for a red marble, as I wandered the beach. I knew that if Sarah said it was there, it was there. But three miles of beach is a big place. Just because you've been told for sure that there's a needle in your haystack doesn't mean you can just go and lay your hands on it.

Some years went by, and no red marble. Then... on a rather windy winter day, I found a red marble!

Mightily impressed by Sarah's visionary powers, I was thrilled to show off my new rare treasure. I was a little surprised that Sarah didn't seem to share quite as much in my excitement.

"It's beautiful, don't get me wrong," she said, "but it's not the one I saw... it's still out there. It's much larger and has a faint orange sheen on one side."

A really LARGE red marble, With a bit of orange on one side...
Having collected sea glass for decades, I knew that orange and red marbles are extraordinarily rare. The fact that I had managed to find both an orange and a red marble in my lifetime seemed like a pretty amazing accomplishment. What Sarah was telling me about was clearly a "shooter" sized marble... and a red one, with some orange.

Large red marbles are not something you come across often. I have seen a few offered on eBay in the course of the past ten years, and they tend to sell for impressive amounts after heated bidding.

To find one would be... possibly the rarest piece of sea glass I've found. Ever. Period.

So, time passed... until we come to October 8th, 2015. Almost at the end of a tiring trip to the beach, I saw something that looked like a piece of brown in the sand. I'm not sure why, exactly (I don't typically pick up much brown sea glass), but I decided to poke at it... and realized there was "more there."

Imagine my surprise at what I pulled out! It was LARGE and it was RED and it had that bit of ORANGE on one side! I probably looked like a crazy big flapping bird, hopping around on the beach in my victory dance.

As you can see from the photo with my two previous treasures, it's a very impressive sea glass marble-- and possibly the most amazing find of my beach combing "career." And hats off to Sarah for "seeing it" out there, all those years ago. Seriously folks... what see intuits is real. As you can see,,,

I've already been asked several times if it's for sale.

Not entirely sure, yet... maybe if someone makes the proverbial "offer I can't refuse," I will share it with another collector. For the moment, I am just telling an amazing-- but TRUE-- story!

High Quality Sea Glass for Jewelers, Artists and Collectors: 
We also offer collections with Jewelry Grade sea glass on Etsy

Friday, July 31, 2015

Those Pretty Round Nuggets!

I have been beach combing since I was a little kid... and picking up sea glass for just about as long.

Over the years, I have lived near beaches with almost no sea glass, as well as beaches with a fairly generous variety of it. Whereas my opinion of favorite colors has changed from time to time, one thing has remained consistent:

The most "treasured" pieces I find-- the ones most likely to elicit an "oooh" and "aaaah" response-- are those round fat gumdrop-like pieces that show up only once in a great while.

They are fairly rare because they-- by definition-- have to come from a pretty thick piece of glass. And most glass isn't particularly thick.

If you think about it, the vast majority of glass we see comes either from common bottles or jars, or from glass tableware. And this glass is seldom more than a quarter inch (about 6mm) thick... maybe a few bottoms and edges get up to 3/8" (9mm) thick.

A fat round piece like the one pictured above-- 1 1/4" (30mm) long by almost 3/4" (19mm) thick can come only from a very limited number of origins.

Then consider that it has to survive the process required to get from being merely broken glass to becoming sea glass. We all know that glass is brittle and breakable-- and that the surface of sea glass becomes the way it is as a result of being tumbled with sand and rocks for years and years, if not decades. Even if a piece of glass starts out being thick, who is to say it will survive the years of being beaten against pebbles and rocks without breaking?

Few pieces do, which is perhaps a large part of the appeal of these "round bubbles," at least to me.

So where does a piece of sea glass like the one in the top photo come from? My best guess is that this was part of an old glass insulator, probably the top part. I remember seeing them in many shades of blue and green, when I was a kid, and I have since seen them as "collectibles" at flea markets. Since they are no longer in functional use, the chances of more sea glass like this being created is near zero.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Winter Beach Combing, Glass Beach and Other Random Thoughts

This year, "winter beach combing" has not even felt much like winter beach combing.

It has been remarkably mild here in the Pacific Northwest-- to such an extent that several ski resorts in the nearby Cascades have simply "thrown in the towel" because there was no snow-- only mud. The part of me that's a gardener is a little concerned because "zero snowpack" at a time of the year where there's normally 150+ inches of snow on the ground (in the mountains) holds scary prospects for the water supply during the summer ahead.

Of course, it has been raining quite a lot... but rainwater in a reservoir is a different type of resource than snow being "held" on a mountainside, to gradually trickle down during the late spring and early summer.

Of course, the milder weather has made beach combing a more pleasant experience than usual, this winter. I have had no outings with snow and icicles forming in my beard! That's a plus, for sure...

From time to time, I have written articles (elsewhere) about sea glass being a dwindling resource. Trips to the beach this winter bears that out-- there is just less and less to be found.

The other day, I found myself reading someone else's blog post about Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California, Quite a heated debate followed, in the comments-- there seems to be two schools of thought on the matter of collecting sea glass:

One thought is that sea glass is basically "garbage" and people should feel free to pick up as much as they want, when they walk on the beach.

The opposing view is that sea glass is a true "natural resource" and people should only LOOK, but not TAKE sea glass. Or maybe limit what they pick up to a handful of favorite items.

As a collector and sometime sea glass trader, I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I feel that people should limit their taking to what they need, and what is "ready."

It does upset me when I see people on our local beaches-- and they are almost invariably "visitors from elsewhere"-- who treat beach combing like it's basically a "strip mining operation," going over every inch of beach with rakes, sifters and trowels, and taking ALL glass, regardless of whether it is broken or "fully cooked."

Of course, to me that's more an issue of not liking "human greed" than anything else. Greed tends to be the destroyer of many things we appreciate... and a simple fact of life seems to be that even if "a little" can be excellent, "a LOT" is not always better... and "a LOT" often is the cause of much unexpected "collateral damage."

The people in Fort Bragg are concerned that their famous "Glass Beach" will be picked over to such a degree there will no longer BE a "Glass Beach." And they'd be right to be concerned... there was once a "Glass Beach" of sorts around here... but there is about 1/10th of the glass on it today, compared to what was there just 10 years ago... almost all of which coincides with the growing popularity of sea glass, around the world.

I've also heard stories and read blog posts about people who have traveled to some place "known for sea glass," bringing with them two empty suitcases and then feeling all proud and pleased with themselves for "sending home 80lbs of sea glass." It leaves me scratching my head and wanting to ask the question "Are you actually going to DO something with all that glass... or did you just cave in to an unhealthy addiction to pathological hoarding?"

In spite of having been a sea glass collector and beach comber since childhood, and being a seller of sea glass on eBay and Etsy, I don't actually have that much sea glass... perhaps because I limit myself to picking up pieces I find pretty, or interesting, or "worthwhile..." whatever that means.

Of course, I don't claim to be "expert" on anything... I just know (from other areas of interest) from experience the damage that can be done as a result of a hobby or pastime being "overexposed."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

For Sale: High Quality Sea Glass for Jewelry, Art and Crafts

Summer is here, and I have enjoyed quite a few nice trips to the beach since the days have gotten longer and the tides more "favorable" for being able to see what I am doing. Of course, that also means that there are many other people "out there" beachcoming... so there is less and less to be found.

I have recently added many new lots to the eBay shop... and plan to add beautiful new items to the Etsy shop over the coming weekend.

One of my goals in creating and uploading "lots" of sea glass for jewelry making is to have "no waste." Hence, I am very particular about accurate grading and putting lots together by size and color, so you always know exactly when you are going to get, when you make a purchase.

Of course, the "popular colors" do tend to go rather quickly, but last I checked there were still almost 200 items listed on eBay and Etsy combined... so I encourage you to have a look while the selection remains good!

Of course, I am hoping to add more items later in the summer, after I finish sorting out what the tides have washed up over the next several weeks.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Obsessive Sea Glass Sorting

It is wintertime, and even though our climate here in the Pacific Northwest is generally pretty mild, going beach combing this time of the year is generally not such a pleasant experience. Driving rain, strong winds and 40-degrees is not such a good time, especially when the journey to the good "beach combing bits" on our beach involves climbing across fallen trees, mudslides and basketball sized rocks covered with slimy slippery sea weed that might offer up a twisted ankle if you're not paying attention. Besides, the days are short, and the good low tides tend to be in the middle of the night when you can't see anything, anyway.

Sea glass marble sections
I have been using part of this winter to "get organized." Which basically means I have been sorting "old pickings" from years gone by. I am slowly getting to a point, now, where I no longer have "random stashes" of unsorted sea glass from days gone by.

Maybe I have gotten a bit obsessive about getting everything sorted... but I have felt the need to get organized because-- as a seller of sea glass for jewelry and art-- I get more than a few "special requests" for particular colors of sea glass, and in specific sizes... and half the time I "don't know what I have."

Of course, I never really set out to "have a business" here, and being able to find enough glass to sell some is really more of a hobby... but still, I decided that since I do some "business like" things, maybe it would be appropriate to have a better sense of what I have available.

I am pretty close to having it all done, now. On one level, it makes me happy to know what I have... on the other, it makes me a bit sad that I have no more "secret stashes" I can pull glass from, when I get a special request. But that's just how life works out, it seems... there are always two sides to every story.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Sea Glass and Beach Combing Book Store

As a collector of many things, I have always enjoyed "understanding" my collections. That is, I like to learn about what I am collecting... the "knowing" is almost as important as the "having."

Although sea glass is a pretty "informal" collectible for most people, its growing popularity in recent years means that more and more books have become available to us.

Of course, I love beach combing and nature in a broader sense than just sea glass-- I also collect rocks, shells, pottery, driftwood, and much more. And I am fascinated not only by "where" things come from, but also by the ways they end up becoming part of something "artistic."

I was thrilled when I first got my hands on a copy of Richard LaMotte's book "Pure Sea Glass," shortly after it came out... since then, there have been others. If you don't own a copy of that book, DO consider getting your hands on one!

Anyway, as part of my interest in learning, I have created a small "Beach Comber's Bookstore" attached to this blog. These are just a selection of my own favorite books... and I felt they might be of interest to other sea glass enthusiasts, as well.

I hope you'll take a look! The few cents I might get from referral fees should you choose to buy something simply go towards supporting web hosting for the North Beach Treasures web site.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The myriad shades of green sea glass

After all these years of looking at sea glass, it seems to me that there are more distinct shades of green sea glass than any other color.

"Common" kelly or "Heineken" green
Of course, it may be that I am simply extremely compulsive about sorting my sea glass into piles that seem (at least to my eye) to be the exact same color.

Most of us hear about "green" sea glass, and we immediately think about the common kelly green (sometimes dubbed "Heineken green" because it's the color used for that brewery's bottles), but there is just SO much more to green sea glass.

So far, I have identified about 30-odd distinct shades of green. I am sure there could be many more, but I am trying not to go completely overboard here.

It's not easy to sort a color down to such a detailed level, because (at least for me) you have to learn to distinguish between "distinct colors" and what simply amounts to small variations in the color density of the same color. Most of the time, though, you learn where colors are "distinct" and how there can be "gray-toned olive" and "yellow-toned olive" and the two really look nothing alike.

This deep bluish teal green shade is actually quite rare
I expect that some of my obsession with colors in sea glass is actually "inherited" from one of my other favorite hobbies, stamp collecting. For stamp collectors, being able to recognize slight differences in the color of a stamp (from different printings and ink batches) can mean the difference between owning a 50-cent stamp and a $50 stamp. As I have been a stamp collector since I was a kid-- and many of those years a pretty "serious" collector-- I learned at an early age to pay close attention to colors and nuances. And there is little doubt that some of this is now "rubbing off" when I sort sea glass.

Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself if it is really "important" that I pay so much attention to sorting by color.

I suppose it has become more important because I sell sea glass. If a jeweler I am working with is trying to make a pair of matching earrings... or a bracelet with multiple pieces of glass... it becomes pretty important that the colors he or she uses aren't going to be glaringly different.

That's the "logical" explanation. Bottom line, though, is that I am just having fun doing this sorting!

About Me

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1960 vintage Danish national now living in the Pacific Northwest... active in the global HSP community; active beach comber and sea glass collector; lifetime collector of postage stamps from Scandinavia; writer and consultant, primarily to the metaphysics and self-help industries, writer at OM Times magazine; artist who doodles on rocks; eBay & Etsy entrepreneur and studio and production assistant at Radio Nahmaste.

Diverse enough for you?