In search of authentic sea glass

These jewels of the sea are getting harder to find. Here’s why—and where to look for them.

Enthusiasts compare it to diamonds. Sea glass—from pieces of bottles and jars—is trash, transformed by the sea and poetically reinterpreted as treasure. Its provenance points to the heyday of consumer glass production, before the rise of throwaway plastics; its allure is fueled by the childlike thrill of a discovery on the whims of time and tide.

Now, as sea glass becomes rarer, artificial versions, sometimes made via acid etching, are supplanting the real thing. But acid etching can leave a toxic residue, making this manufactured gem, used in jewelry and decor, a potential problem. One threat: Adding fake sea glass to your fish’s aquarium could dangerously alter the water’s pH level.

(See millions of years of history while beachcombing in San Francisco.)

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