pirate glass

Pirate Glass

Pirate Glass – the best of beachcomber booty

If you are a sailor or simply a land-based lover of the sea, you no doubt have a predilection for beachcombing. Those of us whose hearts belong to the ocean, find idling along the shoreline, scouring the pebbles and sand, to be time well spent. Along with shells, feathers and driftwood, sea glass is one of those tideline treasures we love to collect.

For those not in the know, sea glass is created when bottles, tableware or other artefacts find their way into the sea and are churned smooth and naturally frosted by the salt water. The process takes from 20 to 100 years or more, and part of the appeal of these ‘mermaid’s tears’; is the speculation about where their journey began.

The colour of sea glass depends on what was added when it was manufactured. Most often found is green, brown, white or clear glass.  Orange, amber, blue and yellow may also show up, perhaps once for every 100 pieces found, and the rarer the colour the more exciting the find!

One of the rarest is black, ‘pirate glass’. This romantic nickname harks back to the seafaring nomads of days gone by swigging their rum and singing drunken sea shanties before smashing the bottles and jettisoning them overboard. Indeed, this black glass often dates from the 17th and 18th centuries, the Golden Age of Piracy!

The word black, while perhaps reflecting the black hearts and beards of those ancient swashbucklers, is misleading. Holding these rare but often sizeable chunks of dark glass up to the light will reveal deep olive green or brown and on rare occasions blue or amber. The glass was made with additives to increase strength and opacity to protect the contents – alcohol or medicines – from sun damage.

Pirate glass can be overlooked when beachcombing because in texture and colour it resembles black rock. Clues to watch for are stones that stay slick after the tide goes out, have a glittery appearance and glow softly when held to the light. You may also spot gas bubbles trapped in the glass as impurities and irregularities in the original old bottles were common.

pirate glass

Good places to find pirate glass are areas such as the Caribbean where many nations traded and pirates plundered. Bermuda and North Carolina may throw up some pirate glass booty but the best places in the world to find it are Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California and Glass Beach, Kauai, Hawaii.

If you are lucky enough to find one of these beauties, hold it up and as its true colour is revealed, spend a few seconds wondering which black-hearted buccaneer long ago launched it into the depths of the high seas.

Happy searching me hearties!

Photo courtesy of Dr Beachcomb and Kristin Hissong

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