Leland slag is not really a true gem, nor is it sea glass. It’s is in a category all its own. Truth is, Leland Slag is byproduct of smelting iron-ore, which they don’t do anymore thank god. It’s waste. Tossed aside into Lake Michigan never to be seen again. Until now… 145 years later, it’s a beautiful stone that has earned a spot in my lineup. Read the nerdy, yet necessary, natural history below.
LELAND BLUE (ANTIQUE FOUNDRY GLASS) c. 1875-1900
This unique “gem” is a byproduct of the short-lived days of smelting iron ore in Northwest Lower Michigan. The ore from the Upper Peninsula’s Mesabi iron range arrived in Leelanau Co. by schooner. A charcoal made from beech and maple hardwoods plus a local limestone flux were used to refine the ore; the slag byproduct was considered waste and dumped into Lake Michigan. This material ranges in color from black to green, to blue and purple, with the various shades of water-like blues being the most prized and rare. Under 2% of the slag created was blue, depending on environmental factors. The lucky and determined beachcomber may still find pebbles along the shore.
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