What is Pirate Glass?

by | Apr 7, 2021 | Beachcombing

Black Seaglass

Something that many people wonder about is what is pirate glass? There are so many different types and colours of sea glass that it can be difficult to keep up with them all. If you have found a piece of what looks like black seaglass, then you might be looking how to find out if you have discovered pirate glass.

In this article, we are going to explain everything that you need to know about pirate glass, what it is, and even where you might be able to find some. Hopefully, this will help you to know when you have found pirate glass, and you can find out exactly where it comes from.

What is Pirate Glass?

Pirate glass is a type of sea glass that you can find that was originally part of a bottle that pirates and sailors used to drink from. Bottles of rum were often used back then as an essential item for survival at sea. Inside the bottles would have been a mixture of lime, sugar, and rum, which was consumed to prevent scurvy. 

As well as this, water was often too contaminated to drink, and so pirates had to drink rum instead to avoid dehydration. Rum was the most affordable and readily available of the drinks, so that is what they took with them aboard their ships.

The History of Pirate Glass

Rum bottles were made in the Caribbean, which made it really easy for pirates to get a hold of them. Piracy was highly common in this area, and rum would have been much too expensive to make on remote islands. Another great thing about rum is that it could be stored well, allowing it to last for long periods of time when out at sea. 

The black glass bottles that held the rum were important in themselves as they worked to preserve the liquor. Before and during the 1800s, black glass was widely used to make bottles that held alcohol and other drinks. Glassmakers would add things like iron oxides, manganese, and other components to the glass to help make it more durable.

The use of strong glass bottles to store alcohol when out at sea was really important as the conditions could become quite rough. This meant that in a situation where the bottles would be flying around the place, they needed to be durable enough to not smash. Otherwise, the pirates and sailors would be left with nothing to drink. Interestingly, the sand that was used to make these bottles contained traces of natural iron oxide, which would turn green when it was used to make glass.

Where Does Pirate Glass Come From?

Pirate glass comes from a very long time ago when sailors, merchants, and pirates would need to keep hydrated when they were out at sea. The name pirate glass simply comes from the fact that the bottles were once drunk from by pirates. Rum would have been an essential item for survival back then, which is why we often see pirates drinking rum in films. 

Clean water would have been a luxury and contaminated water was undrinkable, so rum was the only option that was left. Any bottles that went overboard will have broken down in the sea and turned into what we now refer to as seaglass. Pirate glass is still washing up onto our shores today.

How to Tell How Old Pirate Glass is

You can tell how old your piece of pirate glass is by how thick it is and the amount of bubbles that are present inside it. Pirate glass is unlike many of the other types of glass that we can find on our beaches today because it was made much earlier. Due to the time in which it was made, the glass was often hand blown and filled with bubbles. So, if the black shard of glass is quite thick and has lots of bubbles inside it, then it may date back anywhere between the early 1700s and the mid 1800s.

What is the Rarest Type of Sea Glass?

The rarest type of seaglass is the colour black. Many sea glass collectors will refer to this seaglass as being ‘true black’. More often than not, true black seaglass is either a dark amber or purple colour. It is extremely rare for the black seaglass that you find to actually be black, but you can find out its true colour by holding up a light to it.

What Colour is Pirate Glass?

Pirate glass can be found in a variety of colours, but it is usually dark olive green, dark purple, or amber colour. Pirate glass often appears to be black, but it actually isn’t. When you hold it up to a penetrating light, you will be able to find out what its true colour is. Sometimes, even light cannot pierce through the bottle, and the only way to find out the colour is to break it open. However, many people would never do such a thing.

Glassmakers would have added specific metals to the glass that would have changed the colour of it. The colour that would have been created would depend on what type of additive was used. Some of the things that would have been added to try and achieve the black colour were iron oxide, coal, and ash. The dark colour of the bottles was great for keeping the sunlight out, which would actually help to preserve the alcohol. 

Are Black Sea Glass and Pirate Glass the Same Thing?

Pirate glass or black glass are types of seaglass that look black to the naked eye, but their true colour can be revealed when they are held up to the light. Most of the time, pirate glass will be a dark olive green colour, and you will usually be able to see air bubbles inside it. Many people don’t even notice that they have spotted black seaglass on the beach because it can appear to be nothing more than a black rock.

Where Can I Find Pirate Glass?

You can find pirate glass in places that were most common for pirates to be, like Bermuda. Bermuda is filled with pirate glass, and it can be more commonly found there. Something that is often found here is the bottom of the bottles, which is the thickest part. The most commonly found colours of pirate glass that are found in Bermuda are olive green and amber. The rarest colours of pirate glass to be found there are deep purple and blue and these are not found as often.

Another place where you can find pirate glass is in North Carolina. Pirate ships were often lurking around the Outer Banks, and with pirates comes rum bottles. These bottles have been thrown around in the sea of Hatteras Island for hundreds of years, and they often wash up on the shores near here. 

Even though there are some places where you are more likely to find pirate glass, it can be found all over the world, which is why you should always keep an eye out when you are hunting for seaglass.

How to Find Pirate Glass

When you are out looking for pirate glass, you should be really careful not to accidentally look over it. Many people will mistake pirate glass for black rocks, but it is always worth checking just to be sure. Pirate glass can be quite big, so if you see a large black chunk in the sand, don’t dismiss it straight away as it could be seaglass. 

How to Tell if You Have Found Pirate Glass

If you are unsure if what you have found is pirate glass, you should hold it up to the light to see if you can see the other colours. If you notice that other colours are shining through, then it is definitely seaglass. You might also notice a glowing around the edges, which can help you to identify pirate glass. As well as this, any signs of bubbles in the glass will indicate that it was hand blown, which makes it much more likely to be pirate glass.

Something to be aware of is that sometimes the glass will be so thick that the light is unable to penetrate it, so this method may not always work. In this case, the only way to find out the colour would be to smash it open, and we can understand why most people would not want to do this. So, in some cases, you may never find out if your piece of pirate glass is genuine, but sometimes the mystery is what keeps things exciting. 

What Colours of Pirate Glass Can You Find?

Some of the colours that you can find among your pirate glass are brown, green, red, purple, blue, amber, and more. When chromium and iron are added to glass it will turn a vibrant green colour. If enough of these minerals were to be added to the mix, the colour would become a dark green. If sulphur and iron were added, the colour would be amber. 

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