Real vs Fake Sea Glass

I have been inspired to write this blog as a lovely customer recently asked me how you can tell the difference between fake and genuine sea glass, and what to look for. And that got me thinking; I wondered how many other people had the same question, or even knew that there was such a thing as ‘fake’ sea glass.

Real (genuine) sea glass has a history, it’s part of something from the past that has been discarded many decades before. Each piece is unique and has a story to tell.

Sea glass collectors like myself spend may hours scouring our local beaches for this treasure left by the ocean, and often in the wind and rain because stormy weather brings in the best pieces.


So how can you recognise a genuine piece of sea glass ? A genuine piece of sea glass will have little irregularities on the surface, look for small ‘c’ shapes indented into it from where it’s been tossed and tumbled by the tide against the rocks and pebbles on the beach.

Also, real sea glass will have a frosted appearance which comes about by the sea hydrating the glass through leaching out the lime and soda, giving it not only a frosted appearance but also rounding it in shape. The shape will be unique to that piece of glass, no two pieces ever break in the same way, therefore no two pieces can ever be identical.

                                                   Real Sea Glass

Now, let’s talk about fake sea glass, and sadly there is a quite a lot of out there. A lot of fake sea glass is imported from abroad, for example from China, or people are using a lapidary tumbler at home to tumble (make) their own ‘sea glass’ from broken bottles. This type of glass is sometimes called ‘cultured sea glass’. And sad as it is, flooding the market with this inferior version of sea glass, I guess it’s fine if the people that are selling it on are describing the glass as man made. However many don’t, and try and pass it off as the real thing to the unsuspecting customer. Unfortunately sites like Etsy and eBay are overflowing with it

So, how can you recognised a piece of sea glass which isn’t the genuine thing. The biggest give away is that the edges and surface is perfectly smooth with little or no frosting. Though sometimes even this is tricky, because sea glass jewellers like myself look for the pieces that are particularly smooth and rounded, particularly at the edges. We want to use the best quality glass we can find in our work. If you notice a sea glass jeweller selling lots of pendants or pairs of earrings that are identical in colour and shape then it’s mostly fake sea glass. I spend hours matching up colours and shapes as best I can, but you are never going to get an identical match. The beauty of sea glass is that each piece is unique.


This leads me onto colours of glass. If you have ever gone beach combing yourself for sea glass I bet the colours you find the most are white/clear, pale aqua (known as seafoam), greens and browns. If you think about where most sea glass comes from, it tends to be from broken soft drinks bottles and beer bottles, which are these colours. Colours such as red, purple, pink, blue, yellow, and orange are RARE and hard to find (I should know !), and are prized very highly by sea glass collectors. Therefore if you come across a page selling multiples of this colour at what appears to be a very reasonable price then that’s a real give away that it’s not genuine sea glass (see image below).


                                                Fake Sea Glass


Any piece of sea glass that is rare in colour should be sold at a price to reflect its rarity. Sea glass from Seaham, a beach in County Durham, is very sought after for its unusual and beautiful multiple colours through the glass. But that’s a whole different article for another time.

I really hope that this has helped you understand a bit about what sea glass is and how to spot a genuine piece. It’s a subject that’s very close to my, and other sea glass lovers, heart.

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