Junk to Collectible, Shaped by Time and Tide
By Cornelia Dean
From The New York Times
HYANNIS, Mass. -- Laura McHenry started walking Cape Cod beaches searching for sea glass a few years ago, when her marriage was breaking up and she was looking for something she and her daughter Katie, could do together for fun.
''Sometimes we'll just sit on the rocks and just comb through,'' said Ms. McHenry, who lives in Centerville, Mass., as Katie, 10, displayed her finds nearby. ''It's a great place to talk.''
History draws Rachel Mack, of Grandview-on-Hudson, N.Y. ''These could have come from the Half Moon,'' she said, pointing to white clay pipe stems, each an inch or two long and perhaps half an inch in diameter. She finds these artifacts when she kayaks along the shore of the river Henry Hudson sailed 400 years ago.
Richard LaMotte's wife got him into it. She is a jeweler who works with sea glass, and he went with her on expeditions to Chesapeake Bay beaches near their home in Chestertown, Md. Mr. LaMotte, who works for a water analysis equipment company, got interested in how water acidity affected the glass, and how the chemicals used to make glass changed its color over the decades. Soon he was consulting archaeologists and studying the history of American glass manufacturing. Now his book, ''Pure Sea Glass'' (Sea Glass Publishing, 2004), is a bible for collectors.
They and hundreds of other enthusiasts gathered here this month for the annual meeting of the North American Sea Glass Association, to celebrate a hobby that seems an odd mix of amateur archaeology, environmental monitoring and antique collecting, with a little chemistry thrown in.
At the meeting they trade shards of glass and porcelain, buy and sell sea glass jewelry and crafts, seek expert help identifying their finds and hear presentations on shipwrecks, the glass industry and other topics.
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