Sea Glass Made From Lightning

Another sea glass misconception that needs to be cleared up.

Misconception: Sea glass is made from lightning.

As with the first misconception that I discussed in a past post this misconception is also a result of Hollywood. I am sure you remember the wonderful chick flick Sweet Home Alabama. It is a great movie, but has put a very false impression on viewers that would have a meteorologist screaming at the tv screen. Remember this opening scene?

In the movie Jake (Josh Lucas) owns a glass shop “Deep South Glass” that features glass sculptures that are absolutely breathtaking.

Deep South Glass

Deep South Glass

Image Paltry, sage, rose merry & time

It is shown in the movie how these sculptures are made naturally when lightning hits sand and becomes hot enough that it forms into glass in the natural shape the lightning forms. Well I hate to bust your bubble again but the truth in this is very small. If you were to actually have the chance to do this… which in my opinion is insane and extremely dangerous. You would end up with something very different, you would end up with something more like this.

Fulgurite

Fulgurite

Image Wikipedia

This is called Fulgurite. It is formed when lightning strikes dry sand and becomes extremely hot 3270 degrees Fahrenheit actually and forms a hollow fragile rock, not glass. The only way you are going to get something like in the movie is to do the research I did to find out where the beautiful artwork shown in the movie was made. If you are in love with the glass sculptures in the store “Deep South Glass” in Sweet Home Alabama they were made by Simon Pearce a glass company out of Vermont. Their  master glass blowers now have a limited edition of these beautiful sculptures that are similar to the ones featured in the movie. You can purchase one of these representational fulgurite glass sculptures by Simon Pearce on their website.

So what have a taught you with this post… 1. lightning striking the sand does not make glass at all… so therefore it definitely does not make sea glass or beach glass and 2. lightning striking the sand makes fulgurite…. which is not exactly pretty. Glad we cleared that one up.

March 2012 UPDATE: This post is by far my most visited blog post and because of that and things I have learned since posting this over a year ago I need to clear some more information up.  First let me say, my intention of this post was to explain that “sea glass” is not made from lightning.  I make sea glass jewelry for a living and it is a common misconception when I am showing my jewelry that people confuse it with the glass shown in the movie.  Sea glass that I make my jewelry out of is from common household glass objects that are naturally tumbled by the waves of the ocean or lake where they eventually end up smooth and wash up on shore.  With this post my intention was to clarify only that.  You can learn more about “sea glass” here on my website. I am not a scientist, I am a jeweler, whether or not fulgurite is considered “glass” on a scientific level is not for me to say.  What I do know is sea glass and fulgurite or whatever is produced from lightning hitting sand are two different things.  Given the comments that have resulted from this post I just wanted to make my original point clear.

 

Author: Meg

19 Comments

  1. Sylvia
    Sylvia On January 31, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Fulgurite would make a “fugly” necklace……………………Very interesting info. Thanks~

  2. deb orr
    deb orr On January 14, 2012 at 9:01 am

    What about the Florida Gulf Coast whose ”sand ” is actually Quartz Crystals.. Would lightning not make sea glass when striking the Quartz?

    • Meg
      Meg On January 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      Hi Deb! I am no scientist, but I still doubt it would produce anything close to sculptures in the movie.

    • Graeme
      Graeme On August 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      simple answer deb, no
      long answer
      in no way can you have lightening make a sculpture that will look like anything other than fulguite, in order to get a smooth glass surface that could be used like jewelry the temperatures need to be controlled and gradually added and removed, lightening is none of those things, the quartz would form a magnificent looking piece of fulgurite, and it would actually be fulgurite, but it still would look nothing like “sea glass”

  3. Jenny
    Jenny On January 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    It absolutley DOES create glass, called lechatelierite. It just looks far different than the sculpture in the movies. It DOES occur on the beaches as sea glass often!

  4. gmc3
    gmc3 On February 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    incorrect. lightning can very easily produce glass of intricate design, much like those shown in the motion picture ”Sweet Home Alabama”. However, if you were to just position a rod in the sand, your efforts would only produce ”Fulgurite”. This is because the lightning requires a fair amount of guidance. You must first, use a standard 5 gallon bucket, fill this bucket with sand consisting of as much pure composites including silca, quarts, and carbon. position the rod in the center, with the end of the rod being half to a quarter of the depth of the bucket. lastly, but most importantly you insulate the outer surface around the sides of the bucket with an effective insulator such as rubber or wood. then make small holes about the size of a pen or pencil in the bottom of the bucket before placing the bucket in the ground. this whole procedure will guide the reaction, so that as the lightning connects with the pole the stream of electrons are guided towards the bottom through the sand. i hope that helps.

    • Meg
      Meg On February 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      @gmc3 have you personally tried this? I would love to see pictures of the results and share them on this post! Please let me know. DISCLAIMER:::: BY APPROVING THE ABOVE COMMENT I AM NOT ENCOURAGING ANYONE TO TRY THIS, IT STILL SOUNDS VERY DANGEROUS TO ME AND I AM NOT RECOMMENDING ANYONE ATTEMPT THIS.

  5. bonnie
    bonnie On March 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Hi, Meg I too of Florida Tampa where lightening OFTEN strikes. I have never seen a “glass sculpture” created by lightening. So I would like to see photo’s of what @gmc3 has stated. If that person (@gmc3)has not tried it where did he/she get that info and how do they know thats fact? Thanks!

  6. CC
    CC On March 28, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Uh I have seen examples of glass made from lightning striking sand at a place called Clark County Lake in Southwest Kansas. My ex and I used to dig them up whenever we went fishing, they were gorgeous but much smaller and often times the base is similar to your fulgurite pictures but then it extends into a more beautiful, twisty, kind of crystal like design. So you’re half right.

  7. Lynette
    Lynette On May 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Meg, An interesting article. I actually believed it was possible when lightning stikes. CC if you have any pics on your finds at Clark County Lake please share.

  8. Carleigh
    Carleigh On September 5, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Well I havnt seen lightning make glass but I’ve seen a power line snapped in half & sparking all over the place turning the sand in the concrete below it into beautiful blue glass! After they fixed the wire I went out with a screw driver and collected as much as I could, and if I ever get enough money one day I’d love to take it to a jewler and have it made into a necklace. =]
    I have a few pictures that I would share.

    • Meg
      Meg On September 10, 2012 at 10:45 am

      That sounds really neat Carleigh! I would love to see what you collected. :)

  9. SB_Australia
    SB_Australia On October 14, 2012 at 3:12 am

    :0(
    I’m devastated that this is not true! Ever since I saw that damn movie (completely by accident as I am NOT a rom-com girl) I have wanted a cool twisty lightening-sand sculpture!
    I have checked out Simon Pearce website but the link is now dead…you can go to his regular site but no mention of these amazing sculptures!
    So now I have to stalk Reece Witherspoon & break into her house to find out if she has one or if she knows where I can get one!!!!!

  10. Adam
    Adam On November 27, 2012 at 4:29 am

    i’ve seen a documentry about harnessing the power of lightning.. they did similar to what GMC described… they used a very long rod of some metal that was very conductive.. they used the most pure of silica sand.. they got a sculpture that was a few feet across and looked like roots of a plant, crossed between tap root and a fibreous root. tapering from the centre.. it wasnt perfectly clear but was far from the fulgurites i’ve seen and much much prettier.. if i can find what documentry it was i will post..

  11. Jeanne Forsberg
    Jeanne Forsberg On August 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JjM0kPHSeyk&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DJjM0kPHSeyk

    Pretty enough to make jewelry, but I bet its too fragile! Anyway this is a very interesting post! Thanks

  12. Nick
    Nick On September 19, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I have found lightning glass just yesterday on the beach in N.Y, two good size chunks. There was a lot of metal around where I found it and it does look like glass with some stuff inside of it