- Associated Press - Saturday, March 28, 2015

NAGS HEAD, N.C. (AP) - Tony Brittan held a bit of smooth, red glass smaller than a dime in the palm of his hand.

Years tumbling in the sea had softened its edges and scoured its surface so the Outer Banks sun gave it an opaque glow.

“That’s the best red piece I’ve ever found,” said Brittan, owner of Island Shore Productions. “It’s kind of like the holy grail.”

Brittan cherishes daily walks on the beach, focused on the sand scattered with pebbles, shell fragments, and - every now and then - a piece of sea glass. Daily pressures fade as he concentrates on the natural clutter below while the surf rhythmically breaks nearby. The first finds a few years ago hooked him and his fiancee.

“After we found a couple of pieces, we were like, ‘Oh yeah,’ ” he said.

Books, blogs, jewelry makers, artists and websites worldwide focus on sea glass. The North American Sea Glass Association organizes an annual festival. Part of the attraction is that the weathered shards are becoming more rare with stricter littering laws and the popularity of plastic, according to seaglassjournal.com.

But good pieces are still out there - and highly sought after.

Aaron Tuell, public relations manager of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, seeks to use social media to tell the stories and secrets of those most passionate about a hobby often practiced in winter and early spring when the beaches are bare.

The agency invites enthusiasts in glass collecting and other off-season activities such as kite flying, painting and beach driving to check out visitouterbanks.tumblr.com.

“This shows the value of coming to the Outer Banks every month of the year,” Tuell said.

The Outer Banks is a popular sea-glass collecting destination, said Susan Evans, owner of Seagreen Gallery in Nags Head. She sells necklaces made from well-washed pieces.

Evans regularly finds pieces from the 1800s, some possibly from shipwrecks, she said.

The most rare colors are orange, red and blue. Brown and clear glass are more common. Clear glass from early last century contained manganese and has turned light purple from exposure to the sun, she said. One of Evans’ favorites comes from old turquoise-colored Coke bottles. Anything with raised letters has more value.

When Brittan sifts for sea shards, he takes a straw fedora for head cover, a pair of polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and a plastic sandwich bag to hold his treasures. He walks slowly along the surf line where debris settles.

Right after storms is a good time to search. Sunny days are better than overcast days. Glass glistens a little more than shells. Fishing piers and ocean storm drains are among the most productive places. Go about an hour before low tide, he said - and be patient.

Time, experience and a little help from the glass itself make it easier.

“It’s almost like the glass has to call out to you,” Brittan said.


Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com

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