A couple and their love of Lake Erie beach glass.
Terns swoop through the air and waves crash onto the beach at Conneaut Township Park under a bright blue sky. The air fills with squeals of delight.
Kids splashing in the waves?
No- we`re grown-ups, and you certainly won`t catch us in the water this time of year. But something has drawn us to the beach. My companions, Lorie and Troy Dalrymple, are in search of Lake Erie beach glass, an activity, they warn, that can become an obsession. It did for them and now they own Beaches, a Conneaut, Ohio, store that features jewelry and other items they create from the beautifully colored bits they find along the Lake Erie coastline.
|As we talk, our eyes remain focused on the shore. In no time, our excitement is triggered by the discovery of a thick piece of aqua glass, worn to a fine, frosted patina. Its gently curved shape suggests it might have been part of a handle on a decorative piece, says Troy. |
They offer tips on finding these sought-after treasures. "The best place to look is a rocky or pebbly beach," says Troy. "The bigger the rocks, the bigger the glass, generally."
The most fruitful searches take place after wave action has swept away some of the sand and left the rocks in place, hopefully with some glass. Spotting the pieces is easier in bright sunlight, and depends partly on the angle of the sun.
"You`ll walk right by some glass," says Lorie, "but then see it when you turn around and walk back because the sunlight is hitting it differently."
I spot a tiny piece of china with a blue pattern. I flip it over and there`s a blue-glazed pattern on the back. "That means it was probably a cup," says Troy, explaining that plates typically weren`t patterned on both sides.
Like the china fragment, identifying most pieces requires a bit of detective work: You have to look for clues. A piece of dark brown glass we find was probably from a Prohibition-era whiskey bottle, not a newer beer bottle. Troy points to its thickness, saying, "The thicker it is, the older, most likely. Rum runners from Canada used to dump their cargo if they saw a Coast Guard ship."
Lorie finds a pale aqua piece with small ridges-too small, she thinks, for it to have come from an insulator, the glass caps that used to be found on telegraph poles. We conclude it was probably the rim of an old Mason jar.
The cornflower blue shard I find was likely from a Bromo Selzer bottle, says Troy. "It`s lighter colored than the deep cobalt blue pieces we pick up."
Cobalt and deep magenta-colored glass, relatively rare on most beaches, is found in abundance on the Conneaut Township Park beach. Troy says it was originally from the General Electric plant in Conneaut, which makes bases for light bulbs. Older residents have come into his shop and mentioned that discarded glass from the plant was once used as landfill to retard erosion on the shore back in the 1950s and `60s. We find a piece of cobalt glass in the shape of a light bulb base. Fused to a round piece of metal, it seems to give credence to the stories.
Lorie and Troy Dalrymple search for beach glass on the shores of Lake Erie.
Stories like that are part of what makes beach glass so intriguing. Lorie`s lifelong fascination with beach glass began as a child. She collected and traded it with her friends and later in life, after taking metal-smithing classes, incorporated it into jewelry designs. Troy, a graphic artist, was soon drawn in and they began making jewelry from the beach glass they found. They opened Beaches in May 2006. Now four other galleries sell their work.
"It`s an interesting medium to work in because no matter what you do with it, it`s never going to be the same each time," says Troy. "Even if you do the same style, each piece is going to look different."
And it does. Back at the store, Lorie and Troy show me their work: bracelets, necklaces, pendants and an array of delicate earrings dangling luminous drops of sea foam, emerald green or cobalt. Big chunky pieces hang from the ends of ceiling fan pull chains. A pendant in the glass case features a piece of stoneware decorated with an intricate pattern that appears to be very old. They also show me some of their prized treasures-special pieces waiting to be made into something unique. There`s a small pile of rare ruby red shards, a beautiful shell pink piece, a deep turquoise orb and an ornate white bottle stopper. We wonder where they came from and what they were used for.
"If only glass could talk," says Lorie.
On my way home, unable to resist the lure of more beach glass, I stop at Walnut Beach in Ashtabula. I`m rewarded with some white milk glass, a solid red marble, a gray and white agate marble, a piece of blue and white china, and a clear glass apothecary bottle stopper.
After an hour, I reluctantly head back to the parking lot. But something catches my eye. Just waiting to be found, surrounded by coarse sand, is a piece of glass so beautiful I can hardly believe it: a perfect circle of deep aqua that catches the sun`s rays with the allure of a gemstone.
Oh dear, I`m hooked.
| BEACH GLASS|
The smooth, weathered surface of beach glass results from decades of abrasion against sand and stone, coupled with the corrosive effect of high PH-level water. According to Richard LaMotte, author of Pure Sea Glass, the PH level of Lake Erie is very conducive to making beach glass, while most freshwater is too alkaline.
The lake supported busy port activity in the late 1800s and early 1990s, leaving behind plenty of bottles and glass fragments that became beach glass over the years. Much of that washes up on beaches from Cleveland to Buffalo, one of the best stretches of shoreline in the country to find beach glass. LaMotte believes this area is so rich in findings because the shore here faces the northwest, source of the prevailing winds.
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