USA TODAY: Beaches to Find Sea Glass in Oregon

02/18/2016 20:56

Tom Wagner, Demand Media

While not considered precious, sea glass is still prized by jewelers and collectors.

While not considered precious, sea glass is still prized by jewelers and collectors.

For decades, beachcombers have found beautiful lumps of colored glass, polished by the waves, sand and pebbles to a frosty sheen. This began as a curiosity many years ago, but now these pieces of sea glass are highly sought by collectors and jewelers. You may have to walk for considerable distances to find enough sea glass to put to good use, so in addition to stimulating your creative self, you can get a considerable workout in the process. 

Sea Glass Defined

Sea, or beach, glass are pieces of glass in various sizes worn by tides, waves, sand and beach pebbles until they are reasonably smooth. Usually the smoothing of such glass pieces takes years, even decades, and much of the glass found on beaches has been discarded as litter. Before the age of recycling, people who lived on the coast buried their trash, including glass, often after incinerating it, melting the pieces of glass into rock-like fragments. Wave action unburied these pieces and, over time, smoothed them into sea glass.

Conditions Conducive to Finding Quality Sea Glass

Sea glass occurs most often in areas with turbulent water and heavy surf conditions, especially on pebbly beaches, which tend to erode the glass more quickly than sand does. The best times of the year to find beach glass is from autumn to spring, as sea swells are most common during winter months. Try to find the location of old garbage dumps next to the ocean, or within arroyos that feed into the sea during rainstorms. Such areas are more likely to yield quality pieces of beach glass.

Glass Floats on Oregon Beaches

Many Asian fishermen of years past used glass floats to suspend their fishing nets. If their ships filled with fish, they often discarded the floats; many others blew overboard in storm-tossed waters. Through the span of years, decades and even more than a century, these colorful orbs - ranging in size from a couple inches to two feet in diameter - made their way across the Pacific Ocean. Many washed up on Oregon's beaches. While these are a rare find today, they still occasionally make landfall and are highly prized by collectors.

Locations to Find Sea Glass in Oregon

Because of the nature of sea glass's formation, you are more likely to find it near populated areas. While becoming increasingly rare because of glass recycling programs and the advent of plastic drink containers, you can still find the occasional quality piece at many of Oregon's popular beaches. Such beaches include Astoria, Bay Ocean Peninsula in Tillamook Bay, Brookings, Gold Beach, Newport, Oceanside, Seal Point Trail Beach and Lincoln City. However, if you find a glass float on Lincoln City Beach, be advised that it may not be an antique, as the city holds a festival each year where they release an equal number of newly-made glass floats. For example, in 2009, the city released 2,009 glass floats for the locals to find and turn in to be eligible for a prize.

Uses for Sea Glass

Professional jewelers use sea glass for a variety of body decorations, from rings, pins and earrings to hair accessories. Craftsmen use beach glass to adorn mirrors, for house wares such as votive and wine glasses and drawer handles. However, you need not be a skilled jeweler to make something beautiful out of the sea glass. You can buy or make a clear glass lamp base and fill it with sea glass, should you have many pieces on hand. If you have several long, wide but thin pieces you can use them to make wind chimes that produce crystalline sounds.

Photo Credits

  • sea glass image by Patrick Moyer from