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Cayucos jeweler Jason Cordero makes pieces with local sea glass

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A few steps from his shop's front door on the beach in Cayucos is as far as Jason Cordero needs to go to find materials for his high-end jewelry pieces.

"I had no clue that the following of sea glass is so big. It's like a gemstone," Cordero said. "I really got wrapped up into it."

ONE OF A KIND Each uniquely shaped and colored bit of local sea glass that makes its way into one of Jason Cordero's jewelry pieces can never be replicated. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF JASON CORDERO
  • Photos Courtesy Of Jason Cordero
  • ONE OF A KIND Each uniquely shaped and colored bit of local sea glass that makes its way into one of Jason Cordero's jewelry pieces can never be replicated.

The jeweler started working with sea glass almost five years ago, around the same time he opened Cabana Jewelry and Gifts in Cayucos. Cordero stumbled upon it when his brother's friend offered to teach him how to work with sea glass.

"I've always been into art and jewelry as a medium you can use," he said. "Someone can wear what I make. It's a little more personal. I made a couple pieces [with sea glass], and I realized they sold right away. The town had embraced sea glass as its thing before I came along."

It makes sense, considering that sea glass has permeated the tiny beach town's culture since 2011, when the first Sea Glass Festival was held in Cayucos. Many of the coastal town's residents regularly comb the beaches in search of green, blue, and even red sea glass.

SEA JEWELS Jason Cordero, owner of Cabana Jewelry and Gifts, incorporates gold, silver, and precious gemstones into his sea glass jewelry line. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JASON CORDERO
  • Photo Courtesy Of Jason Cordero
  • SEA JEWELS Jason Cordero, owner of Cabana Jewelry and Gifts, incorporates gold, silver, and precious gemstones into his sea glass jewelry line.

While some may consider sea glass jewelry to be kitschy, Cordero takes a high-end approach to his work, incorporating silver, gold, diamonds, sapphires, and other precious gemstones onto his pieces, which can range in price from $110 to $4,700. The sea glass he uses is either collected locally by himself, his son, friends, or friendly sea glass hobbyists. Cordero also doesn't shape his sea glass, so the way you see it in the store is exactly how it looked on the beach.

"Every piece of sea glass is different," Cordero said. "You're never going to get the same one. I can reproduce designs. But I can't reproduce the sea glass."

Cordero also finds that many customers have an emotional pull to sea glass. One couple came in to buy a piece of custom designed sea glass jewelry for their young daughter, who had just successfully completed three years of chemotherapy.

The mother explained to Cordero that the piece marking the milestone had to have sea glass in it because, "Sea glass goes into the ocean, gets beaten up, and comes out beautiful."

On another occasion, a vacationing family came in to buy a piece for their mother with a terminal illness, who was along for the trip, and maybe had days to live. Cordero made a piece for her within hours that same day.

"I'm supposed to be doing this I think," he said. "It's different. It's something that's special. Sea glass has an allure to it." Δ

Arts Writer Ryah Cooley is down by the seashore at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

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