One of the definitions of a gem is, “..something prized especially for great beauty or perfection.” In my mind, sea glass definitely qualifies as a gem, although it may not be what initially comes to mind when picturing one. When I tell people I’m passionate about collecting sea glass, they likely picture me strolling along the beach, stopping here and there to pick up a piece. Well let me tell you, this is more what it looks like.
Welcome to the world of extreme sea glassing. For this sport, you need gear: a wetsuit, booties, an array of shovels and scoopers, somewhere to quickly and securely stash your finds, and the ability to run really quickly when a huge wave is about to get you. Trust me, you don’t want to be slammed against the merciless cliffs. Davenport, CA, located about 9 miles north of Santa Cruz, is one of the best-known “multi” beaches in the world (the other being in Seaham, England). “Multis” are pieces of sea glass which have more than one color in it. Here’s one of the gems we found last week. Can you see the subtle striations in the white portion? I think it’s simply mesmerizing.
You may wonder why this glass exists in Davenport in the first place. It’s all because of the fabulous Lundberg Studios, located just a half mile up the hill from the beach. This studio produces some of the most beautiful art glass in the world. During the process of creating their art, there are glass shards and trimmings which are discarded. In the 1970’s there was a flood at the studio when the San Vicente Creek overflowed, and all these discarded pieces found their way into the ocean. These are the prizes that we are now searching for, some 40 years later.
Finding sea glass at Davenport is definitely challenging. For one thing, it’s very seasonal — the winter storms are needed to churn up and take out the sand to reveal areas of gravel. This is your only chance of finding anything. If the gravel is in the surf, then you have to keep running in and out of the waves, scooping up gravel to sift through, hoping to find “it” at the bottom of your scoop or shovel before you’re toppled by the wave. If the gravel is up on the sand, then you spend hours digging big holes in the beach, hoping to uncover what you’re looking for. The rest of the year, the beach is just covered in sand…no glass to be found.
With years of drought in California, glassing season has left something to be desired. That is until this year, when El Nino has finally brought in some storms to help us out. BUT…this also means huge, dangerous surf to contend with. I’ve been a few times the past couple weeks, and while I’ve been there, I’ve witnessed someone get a concussion, a likely broken leg, a smashed ankle, and sadly last Saturday someone even lost their life. (Thankfully, his body was found yesterday.) This is definitely not for the faint of heart. Here’s a few photos recently shot by the glass guru, James Hailey. James is one of the master sea glassers, and he has helped me learn so much about the craft. (Follow his FB page if you want to see his jaw-dropping finds!)
Every time I step out of the car up at the parking area, and gaze down at the lovely beach…
My stomach does a little flip-flop, both out of fear and excitement, as I know this is what’s waiting for me…
One of the “holy grails” of this beach is a mushroom. Typically they are found in a green and white pattern, though my friend Tracy from Wisconsin even found a yellow one last Saturday! (Score!) Here’s a couple from my collection, found just in the past month.
We’ve been lucky to find a bunch of partial mushrooms lately as well, which are sometimes also referred to as “onions.”
I love the clear swirl in this one.
Red is one of the rarest colors of sea glass to find. This one, with its various shades of red, is quite spectacular in my opinion.
An “eyeball” is another highly sought-after piece. This one is extra special, as it has a UV rim around its cobalt core. UV glass, also called vaseline glass, has a bit of Uranium in it. If you shine a black light on it, it glows like mad! But don’t worry, there’s not enough radiation being emitted to cause any harm. Here’s photos of my eyeball, both in natural light and under the black light (front and back views.)
When I pulled this out of the sand, I first thought it was a rock. But as I inspected it more closely, I could see that each little crevice was filled with glass — the sun gleaming on the deep teals, blues and aquas deep within. I call it the “asteroid.” No one on the beach had ever seen anything like it. I’m so tempted to break it open to reveal what it’s like inside.
Canes are another very unique find at Davenport. These slim rods of glass are grouped together, then sliced to form millefiori-type patterns in paperweights, vases, etc.
If you look down the centers, you can see the patterns. I’m longing to find one with a star inside. Many of my friends have found them, but I haven’t…yet.
Here are some finished pieces from Lundberg Studios, where you can see the canes used.
On Thursday, we found a smaller egg that is one of my favorites or all time. Doesn’t it almost look like labradorite?! Truly a gem from the sea.
Of course, once you get home, shower, and make a cocktail, it’s great fun to sort out all the glass, deciding which to keep and which to repurpose. I have different jars around my apartment. I’ve got a UV jar, a cane jar, a super special bowl, etc.
In addition to building up my collection, I’m also delighted by all the wonderful glassers I’ve met the past few years. Most I originally met online at Seaglasslovers, which is the largest community of sea glassers from around the globe that I’m aware of (over 10,700 members!). Now some of us have gatherings, and people travel in from all over the country to glass together. This photo, taken by Tami Ewing, is from last Saturday, where we had friends from Wisconsin, North Carolina, Washington, and more come to glass together. One gal who lives in southern California got up at 2 am to drive and meet the group!
Many of my friends and family call me crazy, but that’s OK. It’s a unique passion and it brings me great joy. I may not take as many risks as I did a few years ago, especially with the current wave conditions, but I have a wonderful time enjoying the California coast and finding my own type of gems. Hoping there’s still a few more bountiful hunting days left this season! And if you’d like to see some more amazing pieces, definitely check out the Davenport Sea Glass Facebook page and Rare Sea Glass — it makes my jaw drop!
38 thoughts on “Sea Glass Gems from Davenport, CA”
I do pray a lot 🙂 But I know you’re careful and I’m so happy you enjoy sea glassing with your friends – crazy as you all are 🙂
We are a crazy bunch–crazy, but having fun!
Wow, Amy. Your mom sent me your article and I was blown away! I love sea glass, but I’m way too old to do what you do. (As much as I would like to). I had no idea how intense your searching would be. No wonder I never find any really cool pieces. Way to go
Thanks, Sherry! I’m very lucky to have so many pretty pieces in my collection.
Being passionate about something makes life worth living. Beautiful finds! Stay safe out there.
Thanks, Gale–I promise to stay safe!
Amazing! I love everything about this!
Thank so much, Leslee!
Wow, really enjoyed reading this and the gorgeous photos! Thanks.
Great article! Fun pics! I’m with Dolores tho…✨??✨!
Glad you liked the article, Colleen–and I’m always very careful. 🙂
I always love hearing your adventures of looking for sea glass, but this article brought out your true passion, love and childlike wonder of it all!!! Looks like so much fun! A true adrenaline rush. I am envious. The unfinished pieces you found look like edible candy dusted in sugar!
Thanks, Megan. It is a rush — both the hunt, and when you find something amazing! 🙂
wow I want to do this. It’s Monday now so I’m available much of the next 2 weeks. When do I meet these people? I have a wetsuit that has no sleeves and no footies. Do I need them?
I just signed up at the seaglass site, and am awaiting approval.
Thanks for posting this!
Oh yeah, I’m in San Francisco, and very familiar with how dangerous the surf can be.
Hi Sugar. If you head down to Davenport (DP as we call it), there will always be people there. Lots of “regulars” this time of year.You definitely need booties to protect your feet and for warmth. The water is only about 53 degrees. If you end up going, let me know how it goes!! Stay safe.
I have admired your sea glass collection in your Instagram posts for quite some time. I had no idea how involved it is. This is truly amazing, finding beautiful treasures from the sea! I love your passion, and thank you for sharing this post. Be safe–happy hunting!!
Thank you so much for the comment, Leslie! I feel very fortunate to have these gems. 🙂
What a great passion, and so very interesting!
Thanks, Merna. I know it’s not a typical passion, but I love it!
Amy, your article is so very well done! Love all of your information and fun photos! Yes, we think of the treasures as true gems!
Thanks for the kind word, Bev. You are a sea glass master yourself!! xo
What a fantastic story! Thank you for sharing. I love beach combing around the world, but have never risked the waves like you.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It is definitely risky there. I went all day today, and my legs are covered in bumps, bruises and cuts. But it was worth it! 😉
Your article is so informative and well-written. I’m delighted that you have found a hobby you are so passionate about and are in beautiful surroundings as well. Hunt on!
Thanks, Marilyn! It’s definitely a unique hobby. Tonight I’m sitting here sorting todays amazing finds, while icing all the new bumps and bruises on my legs. It’s the price we pay. 😉
I waited to read this post until I had time to enjoy it. Your a crazy wonderful and amazing lady. Must be so much fun to have such an adventure.
Thanks for sharing your journey.
Thanks, Melodee–love the adventure of extreme glassing! 🙂
It’s fascinating to learn about things I never knew existed. What beauty! What adventure! What great friends doing what they love! So inspiring, Amy.
I have a feeling most people don’t know extreme sea glassing exists. 😉
I love seaglass and gem and minerals. I pinned to this to one of my boards. I’ll have to go up there one of these days.
Gems, minerals, sea glass…can’t get enough of them, Erin!
I had NO idea that seaglassing is such an adventure! Not sure I have the stamina for it but those finds . . . Wow. Jewels indeed. My “collection” consists of a few green and a few blue shards and one pale pink piece I simply stumbled upon here on the East Coast. But to find a mushroom!
This is definitely not “typical” sea glassing, for sure. I was a big chicken this season — only went a couple times, and stayed in the shallow water, away from the big waves. Sounds like you’ve found some nice pieces — a pink, yay!
I wish I could remember where I got the pink piece – if it was a gift or if I found it. Now if I could find a red!
Ah yes– red and orange are the MOST rare!
I went to visit family in Santa Cruz in the summer of 2017 & fall of 2018. We went to Davenport and found a few chips 😉. Someone in my FB friends who frequently beachcombs at Davenport sent me a small handful of chips some multi colored in exchange for some of my Texas finds. I discovered and collected Texas seaglass from the early 1980’s until a couple years ago. I Love Seaglass 🥰.
I love it too!!!