Why you should care

Because crows and Gollum aren’t the only creatures that thrill for pretty baubles.

Winter is glassing season. At high tide in Davenport, California, seething walls of white water churn up the pebbled shore, each wave unearthing a fresh slate of sea glass. Hawkeyed glass hunters brace in the impact zone, and as the stew of seawater retreats, they snatch at any glint of color. Sea glass can sell from $5 to $100 a stone, and this El Niño–stirred glassing season, which many glassers are calling the best ever, has brought in a deluge of new prospectors.

Clad in black neoprene wet suits, glassers wield shovels, garden rakes and jury-rigged strainers. They come as prospectors, hobbyists or addicts. Mary Ann Carbone, a passionate, puckered woman of 61, the vice mayor of nearby Sand City and the self-styled “Sea Glass Queen,” is among the addicts. She glasses with a metal basket extracted from the deep fryer at her husband’s beach café and welded to the end of a red pole. Carbone removes a dark stone splashed with purple from the fryer basket, raises it to the sun and squints. “There is light shining through,” she says. “It’s glass all right.” When she returns home, she’ll add the piece to a glass collection so large that it’s spilled out of her house and into the garden.

So far he’s only swallowed one small stone: “I’m not sure if it’s still there, inside me.”

The first rule of glassing, says Carbone: “Always keep an eye on the ocean.” The second: “No piece of glass is worth your life.” Indeed, glassing at Davenport can be perilous. Skin lacerations are routine, and broken limbs not uncommon. In February, Peter Koci, a middle-aged glasser from Truckee, California, washed out to sea. It took more than a week for his body to float ashore, six miles to the south.

Beaches around the world have sea glass, ordinarily the result of broken bottles being tumbled along the ocean floor, losing their sharp edges and developing a frosted look. In Davenport, though, perfect stones of carmine and deep blue come ashore, some with intricate color patterns etched by the town’s former glassblower. Local legend holds that a flood wiped out the glassblowing studio and carried all the artisan glass down the creek some 40 years ago. Dumping has, perhaps, supplemented the supply since then. Nevertheless, the resource is dwindling, driving up the prices paid by coastal jewelers. (Some angst-driven glassers have taken to seeding the ocean with marbles.)

Carbone leaves the danger zone — the rock shelf buttressing the beach where the largest glass stones land — to professional glassers like 29-year-old Daniel Cruz. As Cruz scrambles from the massive waves, he plops sea glass stones straight into his mouth like peppermints. “It’s faster this way,” he says. “When I get my mouth full, I spit them in my bag.” So far he’s only swallowed one small stone: “I’m not sure if it’s still there, inside me.” With a portion of this season’s earnings, Cruz bought his girlfriend a car.

After five hours of glassing, a sun-worn Carbone zips up her bag of small multicolored stones and shuffles up the trail to the car park. Midway, she crosses paths with another glasser, who has his haul out on display and for sale. Though Carbone tries to avert her eyes, she ends up kneeling and fingering the large pieces, one the size of a small fist. Eventually, she selects one, a translucent seafoam-green piece, to purchase, then three more — a total of $100 dollars’ worth. “I don’t know why I need more,” she says with a smile. “I have no idea. I’ve got a lot. When I found one of the prettiest pieces ever the other day, I gave it away.”

Carbone’s friend and fellow glasser Merilee Desin interrupts to deliver her opinion: “She’s an addict!”

 
Comment

OZYGood Sh*t

If you’d want to drink it, eat it, wear it, ride it, drive it; if it’d be cool to see, listen to or do, we’re writing about it.

  • 12 Books You Need To Read
    12 Books You Need To Read
    Good Sh*t

    12 Books You Need To Read

    Summer is coming to a close in the Northern Hemisphere. But as the evenings draw in and temperatures fall, there’s never been a better time to curl up with a book and enter a world not of your own making. The international literary world has never been as diverse — or downright interesting — as it is today. That’s why we’ve collated for you, dearest OZY reader, some of the best new reads from Argentina to Zimbabwe and many fascinating places in between. Read on because we guarantee you this: There’s no list as interesting as ours.

  • The Hidden Wonders of Latin America
    The Hidden Wonders of Latin America
    Good Sh*t

    The Hidden Wonders of Latin America

    When it comes to popular depictions of Latin America and its culture, shallow stereotypes of what is a profoundly diverse region abound. Which is why, to truly get Latino culture, you need to tune out of popular — and often sadly inaccurate — tropes and tune in to today’s Daily Dose.  Indigenous rappers, quinoa sushi and cannabis-infused teas are transforming Latin America’s cultural and gastronomic landscape even as brave activists work to preserve the region’s astonishing natural beauty. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by diving deeper than just salsa rhythms, Caribbean beaches and pisco sours for a sensory journey to a stunning part of the world that’s in flux. I should know: I’m from Argentina.

  • Ready to Be Hypnotized by Tasmania’s Rainforests?
    Ready to Be Hypnotized by Tasmania’s Rainforests?
    Good Sh*t

    Ready to Be Hypnotized by Tasmania’s Rainforests?

    From soft sand and wild rivers to long trekking trails, Tarkine in Tasmania has you covered.

  • If We Ever Go On Vacations Again
    If We Ever Go On Vacations Again
    Good Sh*t

    If We Ever Go On Vacations Again

    If this COVID crap ever ends, you'll want to get away. We mean REALLY get away. From Wi-Fi and all that entails.

  • Love Fiction? We've Got Some Podcasts for You
    Love Fiction? We've Got Some Podcasts for You
    Good Sh*t

    Love Fiction? We've Got Some Podcasts for You

    This week on Wherever You Get Your Podcasts, we showcase some of the best scripted fiction podcasts, many of which are heading to the small screen.