SEA GLASS COLORS: WAHT ARE THEY AND WHAT ARE YOUR ODDS OF FINDING THEM?
Common Sea Glass Colors
The main thing that affects sea glass rarity is whether or not its color has been mass produced over the past several decades. For example, beachcombers usually find a lot of white, brown, and Kelly green sea glass because these colors of glass have been mass produced since the last century by bottling companies that sell a lot of soda and beer.
Rare Sea Glass Colors
Colors of sea glass that fall into the rare and extremely rare categories like red, orange, yellow, pink, and turquoise come from sources such as household glassware, Depression glassware, art glass, car lights, ink bottles, fruit jars, lamps, perfume bottles, and flasks. These items are not as ubiquitous as soda and beer bottles. Also, the process, chemicals, and elements to produce rare colors of glass are often more expensive than mass produced white, brown, and kelly green glass.
Basically, the more you search for sea glass and the more your collection grows, the better your chances for finding the rarest sea glass colors.
SEA GLASS COLOR RARITY CHART
The color pie chart below shows the main colors of sea glass. The larger the slice, the better odds of finding that particular color. Keep in mind that though these are the main colors of sea glass, each color can vary slightly in its shade from light to dark.
CLEAR OR WHITE SEA GLASS
White is a common sea glass color. Many shards, says Richard LaMotte author of Pure Sea Glass: Nature’s Vanishing Gems, can be dated back to late 1800s and and early 1900s. Most pieces come from soda bottles, especially as the mass production of drinking bottles increased through the 20th century.
In the water, white sea glass looks translucent, but when an older well-worn piece dries, it becomes virtually opaque with a frosty layer.
The odds you’ll find clear white sea glass are approximately 2 out of every 3 shards you find.
BROWN SEA GLASS
Brown is another common sea glass color. Most brown sea glass comes from beer, whiskey, medicine and snuff bottles. Some older brown shards also come from Clorox bottles when the containers were made from dark glass to keep the sunlight from affecting its contents.
The peak production periods of brown sea glass range from the late 1800s to the present. Today, many wine and American beer companies still use brown bottles to help protect the liquor inside the bottles from the sun.
When brown sea glass is dry, different shards appear to have the same dark hue; however, when wet, a few different shades become apparent.
Your chances of finding a brown sea glass shard are approximately 1 in 2.
AMBER SEA GLASS
Amber sea glass has a reddish-brown hue that is sometimes mistaken for the more common brown sea glass. You can identity an amber piece by comparing it to a brown piece of sea glass under a light.
Like brown sea glass, most amber sea glass comes from whiskey, beer and snuff bottles. Besides brown, some early Clorox and some medicine bottles were also made from amber glass.
The odds of finding amber sea glass are about 1 in about every 25 shards you find.
GOLDEN AMBER SEA GLASS
Golden amber sea glass is the rarest color among the brown hues. Some sea glass aficionados refer to the color as mustard.
In the photo below, golden amber sea glass is on the left and amber is on the right; you can easily see the difference between the yellow-brown and red-brown hues. Look at the shadows under the shards. Golden amber casts a yellow tint, and amber casts a more redish tint.
Like brown, golden amber sea glass comes from mostly liquor bottles. The peak production years were from the early 1900s to the 1970s.
The odds of finding a shard of golden amber sea glass are about 1 in 25 to 50.
KELLY GREEN SEA GLASS
Kelly green sea glass is also another common color. Most kelly green glass was produced after the second half of the 20th century for popular soda and beer bottles such as 7Up, Mountain Dew, Sprite, and Heineken.
Kelly green sea glass is common but not as common as white and brown; The odds of finding kelly green sea glass are about 1 in 5.
SOFT GREEN OR SEA FOAM SEA GLASS
Soft green or sea foam sea glass was a common color for bottles in the late 1800s and early 1900s and was used mostly for soda and beer bottles. Soft green or sea foam sea glass shards can also come from baking soda, fruit jars, and ink bottles.
In the 1920s after automation, many companies switched to clear white bottles, so if you find a soft green or sea foam shard, it’s likely from the early 1900s.
The odds of finding a piece of light green or sea foam sea glass are approximately 1 in 50.
LIME GREEN SEA GLASS
Most pieces of lime green sea glass come from soda bottles manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s.
Some pale lime tableware was also produced during the first half of the 1900s that contained uranium. Sea glass containing uranium will glow under a black light.
Learn more about UV Vaseline glass that contains uranium here.
The odds of finding lime sea glass are about 1 in 50.
JADE SEA GLASS
Many shards of jade sea glass come from mineral water bottles and wine bottles. The color was popular during the mid to late 1800s and mid 1900s.
The odds that you’ll find a shard of jade sea glass are about 1 in 25.
TEAL SEA GLASS
Teal sea glass is quite rare. Most teal glass was produced before the 1950s, and it was used for containers for things such as baking soda, mineral water, and ink.
Your chances of finding teal sea glass are approximately 1 in 2,000.
FOREST GREEN SEA GLASS
Most forrest green sea glass comes from wine bottles, and the color is still widely used today, which makes dating forrest green shards a little difficult.
Some of the signs that your shard may be older are thickness and air bubbles inside the glass. Prior to the early 1900s and automation, most glass contained air bubbles. Because older containers glass were produced to be reused, they were also thicker than those produced today. If you find a shard that has small air bubbles, it’s likely it could have been produced in the 1700s. Sea glass shards with larger bubbles may be from the 1800s.
The odds of finding forest green sea glass are about 1 in 50.
COBALT BLUE SEA GLASS
Dark cobalt blue bottles were mainly used for poison and medicine bottles to distinguish them among other colored bottles. If you find a shard of cobalt blue sea glass, it was likely produced between the 1880s and 1950s. Companies that produced products such as Bromo-Seltzer, Noxzema, and Vicks Vapor Rub used cobalt glass container in the mid-1900s.
The odds of finding a cobalt blue shard are about 1 in 250.
PURPLE OR AMETHYST SEA GLASS
Purple or Amethyst sea glass mostly comes from vintage household glassware like dishes, cups, glasses, and food containers. A lot of purple sea glass also comes from clear sea glass containing manganese. The more exposure the glass had in the sun, the more the manganese in the glass causes it to turn purple.
The odds of finding purple or amethyst sea glass is about 1 in 300 or more.
SOFT BLUE AND AQUA SEA GLASS
Soft blue and aqua sea glass are easily confused because they look so much alike. Aqua is a little darker than soft blue. Most aqua sea glass come from the late 1880s to 1930s and was used for Mason jars, beer, soda, and mineral bottles.
The odds of finding sea glass in soft blue are about 1 in 50.
Soft blue sea glass comes from the same time period as aqua sea glass and even after the 1930s with wide use by Pepsi and other soda bottle companies. Soft blue was also used for the same types of containers as aqua.
The odds of finding an aqua shard are about 1 in 500.
In the photo below, aqua sea glass is the shard on top.
GRAY SEA GLASS
Most gray sea glass shards came from thick pieces of leaded-glass tableware and Depression glass. Because leaded glass has been produced for hundreds of years, it’s difficult to date the shards.
Gray sea glass is extremely rare. The odds of finding any are about 1 in 2,000.
PINK SEA GLASS
Pink sea glass is rare. The peak production period was mostly during the Depression years between 1915 to 1950. Most pink shards are from tableware like Depression glass. Deeper and rarer hues of pink come from vases and perfume bottles.
The odds of finding a pink shard are approximately 1 in 1,000.
ORANGE SEA GLASS
Orange glass was hardly used for any forms of mass-produced glass. If you’ve found an orange shard of sea glass and it’s not Amberina (a combination of red and yellow or orange), it’s likely a shard from something designed during the art-deco period. Orange sea glass also comes from tableware, the edges of red warning lights, or Carnival glass.
Many sea glass experts say orange sea glass is the rarest and most difficult to find. The odds of finding it: 1 in about 10,000.
RED SEA GLASS
Red sea glass is extremely rare. Red was a popular color during the 1800s, but its peak production years were between the late 1930s to the 1950s. Most red sea glass comes from lamps, stained glass, Depression glass, and car lights.
If you find some red shards, consider yourself very lucky. Red sea glass is cherished by most sea glass collectors.
Even though red is probably the most coveted color, orange is still considered by many to be the rarest color of sea glass.
The odds of finding red sea glass are about 1 in 3,500.
TURQUOISE SEA GLASS
Besides red, turquoise sea glass outranks most other colors for favorite sea glass hues. Turquoise is the rarest color of all the blue sea glass colors. Like other rare colors of glass, turquoise glass bottles were rarely mass produced.
Most turquoise sea glass comes from art glass, glassware, and other antique glass. The peak production periods extended from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s.
Turquoise sea glass is hard to find. The odds you’ll find one are approximately 1 in 5,000. Because the intense blue color stands out, turquoise sea glass is easier to spot on the beach.
WHITE OPAQUE SEA GLASS
Most white opaque shards come from dinnerware and coffee mugs. It was also used for wide-mouth cosmetic jars and for lids on Mason jars.
Sometimes white opaque sea glass is referred to as milk glass. It can be challenging to date milk glass because it covers several different time periods.
Milk glass also comes in pastel opaque colors such as lime green (Jadeite), creamy yellow (Custard Glass) and soft blue; however, white is the most common.
The odds of finding milk glass shards are about 1 in 250.
YELLOW SEA GLASS
Yellow sea glass comes from mostly tableware such as Depression glass. Some shards also come from art glass and stained glass. Very few bottles were produced in yellow. Yellow sea glass is extremely rare.
The odds you’ll find any yellow sea glass are about 1 in every 3,500 sea glass shards you find.
BLACK SEA GLASS
Black glass bottles were often made to protect the contents from sunlight. The bottles were also often made of thick glass for frequent reuse. During the 1700s, most liquor bottles were made in a deep, dark olive green color, which is considered black sea glass.
On the shore, black sea glass looks like rocks. If you find a rock and suspect it’s black sea glass, hold it under a light. True black sea glass will reveal a dark green or black olive hue.
If you find a black shard with a lot of bubbles, it’s likely from 1700s or 1800s.
The odds of finding a black shard are about 1 in 2,000.
What’s your favorite sea glass color or colors?
LaMotte, Richard. Pure Sea Glass. Sea Glass Publishing. 2004.
LaMotte, Richard. Pure Sea Glass Identification Cards. Sea Glass Publishing. 2011.