Since writing about the unsustainable crystal industry last year, I’ve been meaning to write this post as a happy alternative. Around the same time that I started researching crystals and their origin, I happened upon a beautiful green sea glass ring at a flea market in Bristol. I got to talking with the jewellery maker and she explained that all of her sea glass is found locally, and I was instantly intrigued. Since then, I have been sea glass foraging myself on the coast here in Bristol, as well as other spots dotted around the country. It’s like hunting for mushrooms or learning about a new plant; once your eye is attuned to it, you see it everywhere!
Not only is sea glass a much more sustainable and ethical alternative to crystals, it also carries a lot of folklore and magic. For me, storytelling connects us to pretty much anything and everything and sea glass is no exception, so I wanted to share some of that in this post. It comes in a variety of colours and each piece is completely unique as they are basically just little pieces of glass that have been smoothed by the sea until they wind up on the shore for you to collect. I have personally used them to make jewellery, but I have seen sea glass used to decorate cards and other homemade crafts, as well as being used spiritually, in exactly the same way that people use crystals.
Colours & Meanings
As you might imagine, the majority of sea glass you’ll find is clear, green, or brown, as those are the most common colours of glass products. But the more you look, you might be lucky enough to come across a red, yellow, orange, purple, blue, or turquoise. I have gradually accumulated some of each, and always let out a little squeal when it’s a rare colour – especially purple! I’m not sure how others use sea glass in place of crystals, but for me, as they come in basically all colours of the rainbow, I like to attribute the different colours to the seven chakras. When making jewellery with them, I often focus on the different zodiacs and each colour seems to fit a different astrological sign in my mind. For example, Cancer is definitely blue, Scorpio is red, and Leo is yellow. But this is all just my personal creativity and how I choose to see/use them – the beauty is, there are no rules, so feel free to attribute your own ideas of magic to them!
Of course, in some ways sea glass is a reminder of humans polluting the earth; all glass in the sea has been dumped there by us. But if something meaningful can come out of that and the glass returns to shore, perhaps nature’s way of telling us she doesn’t want our waste, I think this recycling of old ‘rubbish’ is infinitely better than supporting the crystal industry. I love imagining where each little piece has come from – whether it was someone’s glasses or a bottle of champagne popped to celebrate an engagement or a birth. Maybe it was a glass from a palace or a piece of a telescope used to see the stars. The point is, sea glass is full of magic, if you are willing to use your imagination.
Across the world and in many different cultures, sea glass is known as ‘mermaid tears’. In folklore, mermaids have been referred to as the guardians of sailors (as well as cunning sirens, but storytellers of sea glass prefer the other version of the story!), saying that they would swim alongside the ship of the sailor they loved to protect them. But Neptune, the Greek god of the sea, was jealous of this and would banish the mermaid to the bottom of the sea from where she could never return. There, she would cry for the sailor she’d left behind, and her tears were said to crystallise and make their way to shore so that her love might find them and keep them as tokens.
I think it’s beautiful that something negative like manmade litter can be turned into something magical, through humans and nature working together, in a way (though I’m not sure humans can take much credit). Sea glass is so unique and adds to the allure of the sea, reminding us of all the treasures it offers us if only we’d stop damaging it. So, the next time you find yourself on a beach (the rockier the better!), take a little wander and see if you can find yourself any mermaids’ tears.