In high school, I sucked at chemistry. I remember having to memorize the periodic table in grade 10 or 11. Talk about drudgery! Twenty years later, I wish I would have paid more attention. Why?
If you really want to learn about sea glass, there’s chemistry involved. Take your average lavender piece of sea glass.
At one time that lavender piece of sea glass was probably as clear as a freshly squeegeed window. But time and sunlight changed all that. Purple set in.
Sun purple glass is created when UV rays from the sun react with the manganese in glass. Manganese? Is that some sort of mangled version of the Chinese language, you ask? Non!! What in the heck is manganese?
Manganese is a metal with important industrial metal alloy uses, particularly in stainless steels, says Wikipedia. The glass industry used Manganese from the 1860’s to 1915 as a clarifying agent. In fact, according to this website, manganese was often called “glassmakers’ soap” for its ability to counteract discoloration caused by iron and other impurities. At low concentrations, manganese removes the greenish tinge generated by the presence of iron; at higher concentrations, it is used to make violet-coloured glass.
So, if your collection of sea glass includes lavender, chance’s are it’s old glass. And guess what? You can make that lavender colour even richer by placing it in a sunny window. That’s where my lavender sea glass is right now. I will post before and after pics in a few months.
Photo: Christina Friedrichsen