A seashore search for shards of treasure that once were trash

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COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) —  It is often century-old trash, tumbled and turned into treasure by the tide. 

There’s less and less sea glass on the nearby shoreline, thanks to less illegal dumping.

And that’s a good thing, even if you need it for your craft the way Tracy Prince does.

“This beach,” Prince said, referring to a relatively secret cove where she hunts for sea glass. “When I started looking here about 12 years ago, it was absolutely covered in sea glass… and trash too.”

Now, the search is a bit more difficult, requiring the occasional digging through sand.

A thin layer down, Prince’s daughter Emily finds one of the now, more rare colors.

“You have to see this big yellow one I found,” Emily yells from down the beach.

“You found yellow?” Prince answers, as if it was a diamond. “Let me see! That’s one of the rarer colors!”

Prince’s affinity for sea glass started to shine when she was 8-years-old. That’s when she found a handful of it on a beach in Puerto Rico while she was there visiting her grandmother.

She started turning the little gems into jewelry as a hobby. Then about 14 years ago, a suggestion prompted what is now her business, “Sea Find Designs.”

“Most of my ideas come out of chaos,” Prince said. “Sometimes, I’ll look down and pieces will be moved and I think that looks good. I’ll do that.”

When you spend so much time scouring sand for sea glass, you also find other interesting items, according to Prince.

Prince once found a bell-shaped chunk, that almost looks like a rock. But it was far more valuable for sea-glass lovers such as herself.

“If you look inside an in tact bottle, you’ll see they have that bubble at the bottom,” she explained. “That’s what this was.”

She’s also found ceramic doll legs, whittled down machine sprockets and hunks of smoking pipes from years past.

“They’d smoke, break off a piece of the pipe, and they’d throw it in the ocean,” she said. “Most of the taverns were on the water.”

Prince said she is not concerned the supply of sea glass will eventually run out, saying it’s the positive impact of cleaner oceans.

While she admits the pieces are harder to find, she said it makes it more fun when you discover one of the more rare colors.

“There’s history. There’s people attached to it,” Prince said. “I find things with monograms in them and I wonder, ‘Who did this belong to?'” she said. “I think that always, at heart, I’ve been a treasure hunter. I keep thinking I’m going to find that thing.”

Occasionally, “that thing” has been a wedding ring, prompting a new hunt — for the owner.

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with you story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

Sarah Doiron contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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