I was brought up in the town of Ilfracombe, on the North Devon coast and
many of my childhood memories are of times spent on the various beaches in
the area. I can remember being amazed at the difference between the grey
shale sands of Ilfracombe beaches and the golden sands of the nearby
Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton beaches.
One small bay at Woolacombe, called Barricane (or Shell Beach), was different to the main beaches in that the sand was made up almost entirely of small shells and shell fragments. I spent many hours there collecting cowrie shells which were rarely seen on any other beach in the area.
At nearby Rockham Bay there was golden sand at low water but the upper part of the beach was made up of rounded pebbles which were graded in size depending on their position on the beach.
In 1995 I visited Polpeor Cove on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall and there the sand was completely different to any I had seen before. It appeared to be made up of distinct black and white particles. I was so fascinated that I collected a small amount to take home with me and this was the start of a new hobby. Since then I have collected sand from many different locations and never failed to be amazed at the wide range of different types of sand that can be found.
Geologists grade mineral particles using the following scale:
The technical definition of sand is therefore, "mineral material consisting of particles ranging in size from 0.02 mm to 2.0 mm in diameter."
Sand is produced by the physical and chemical weathering of rock and tends to accumulate wherever water and rock meet. Almost any mineral can exist as sand, but by far the most common constituent is quartz.
Sand in a more general sense can also consist of, or contain, the remains of animals and plants. Shells and shell fragments are major constituents of many coastal sands. In some areas, whole beaches are made up of coral fragments or pieces of the 'skeletons' of various marine algae.
Most people associate sand with beaches on the coast but it is also found along rivers and streams, around lakes, in caves and on hillsides. Wind blown sand may also cover large areas remote from water especially in the hot dry desserts of the world.
The wide range of variation in the material that we call sand cannot fail to
be of interest to anyone who likes to study the natural world. A well displayed collection
is a pleasure to look at, and when examined under a hand lens or microscope, a
whole new world of beauty and interest can be observed.
Apart from the intrinsic interest in the material itself, the process of collecting sand can be very enjoyable. Sand is found naturally in the more beautiful or exciting areas of our environment and collecting sand provides another reason to search out and visit such places. It also adds another feature of interest to any place visited, and years later, the samples can bring back pleasant memories of visits and experiences.
Sand also has great economic importance. It has many uses in building and other construction work, in horticulture and in the production of glass and abrasives.
The Virtual Sandbox - This is a beautifully designed site with
much useful information for sand collectors and lots of great photographs.
There is an International Sand Collectors Society with its own
quarterly newsletter. The web site is at
There is another International Sand Collectors Society site at
The Internet Centre for sand provides lots of interesting
The Sand collecting page on this site gives links to other people
who are interested in sand collecting, many of whom are keen to exchange sand
Frank Krumme's Sand Site is well worth visiting - fun to look at
and listen to, and lots of links.
Microscopic Science Art This site, by Loes Moddermann, has a lot
of good photomicrographs of sand (and crystals) plus other information about
Other sites of interest to sand collectors:
Virtual Sand Museum
Sand Collection (Includes many other links)