Not a true gem, not really sea glass, Leland Slag 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 like an old chunk of coal. 145 years later, it’s a beautiful stone that has earned a spot in my lineup. Read the nerdy, yet necessary, natural history below. This piece highlights the variety of blues that show up in in the glass.
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.