Jars Full of Memories: My Sand Collection

By May 12, 2008 culture 32 Comments

When I first got married, I began filling a three-ring binder with home decorating ideas. I scoured magazines for anything that piqued my interest—color combinations, furniture styles, craft ideas, and so on. I would tear those pages out of the magazine for inclusion in the binder. That binder was my hope chest of sorts, where the ideas I had collected could rest until we had a home of our own in which to implement these notions.

One of the first pages to be included in my binder featured a sleek, artsy home full of personal photography (mostly large scale black and white pieces). One room had a photo ledge spanning a long wall; in between the photos, the family also tucked in small jars of sand from their travels. Each jar was neatly labeled with the place and date the sand was collected from.

Something about this collection struck me (and stuck with me). I loved the way each jar told a visual story. And it just looked so . . . cool.

my sand collection

Over the past few years, I have actually remembered to collect sand from our own travels. (How I wish I had remembered to do this early on!) Last week I finally got the sand in the jars I bought some time ago. It has been inspiring to implement an idea that I treasured for so long, kept in that binder of dreams. And now I have my own small sand collection that I would also declare “cool.”

jar label

After getting the sand into the jars, I began making the labels. This is the sort of thing I can spend way too much time fooling with. But I finally got those attached. I’m quite pleased with the result!

As I prepped this post, I did a quick search on sand collecting and discovered two new words: arenophiles and psammofiles. Both refer to sand collectors and the hobby of sand collecting. (Who new this hobby had such studious names?! These were not even listed in Webster’s though, or I would have provided a proper definition. You know me!) There are many Web sites and blogs (see posts here and here) dedicated to sand collecting. And I was quite surprised by the collections I found on this site in particular, which look much more scientific than artsy, but fascinating none the less.

Whatever the bent, sand collecting seems to be one more way for people to catalog and mark special places and experiences over the course of our lives. I think that’s another reason why I like this—just one glance at these chubby little jars brings to mind precious time spent with those I love in unusual places.

So do you collect sand? How do you store it and label it? What do you love about it? I’d love to hear.

Post Update (6/18/08): I purchased these adorable little jars at World Market.

  • chris

    Where did you get such wonderful jars for your sand? I have mine in screw top lids right now and can’t stand how they look!

  • Anne Yunker

    I love the way your sand collection looks! I too saw this idea in a magazine many years ago and have been slowly collecting sand from our travels. You have inspired me to get some of these very cute jars and put it all together! Thanks!

  • Sara

    I collect sand from all over the world and keep each one in a unique, decorative glass bottle with a cork. It is for decorative value, but also because I love sand as a souvenir, and because I’m interested in geology. I also have friends and family bring me back sand when they go anywhere. It feels like I own several little chunks of the world!

  • http://www.couleurvanille.com Pascale

    Hi, I’m Pascale a french sand collector, I started the collection in 1997, and I’ve got more than 4500 samples.
    I put them, in small boxes or small bottles, and I’m very impressed by all the minerals and organics there are in them.
    You can see the pictures here :


    Pascale—What a lovely collection! Thanks for sharing. —es

  • Marti

    WOW! I have been collecting for a few years and have a whole 16 samples to date! (moving kinda slow for me but so much fun!) I too have been putting them in small jars but quickly ran out so your tip about the jars is much appreciated! Only now, after all these years did it dawn on me to google Sand Collections! It is so nice to know others are out there as well. Thanks for posting! Marti from Louisville KY

    Marti—I think all of us fellow sand collectors are giving a huge boost of business to World Market! The traffic from my post to that shopping link is steady. Maybe I could get a finder’s fee or something? Who knew such jars would be difficult to track down! I do love them; they have just the right amount of spunk. Hope those work for you too. —es

  • Mel

    Thanks for the idea. These are great.
    Cheers! Mel from Vancouver, BC

  • Tami DeSmith

    I also collect sand. My collection is currently limited to samples from the Caribbean. Where did you get your bottles from? I would love to find something like that to put my samples in instead of a hodge-modge of various containers. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Tami—I do love the jars! They have just the right sort of chubbiness. I purchased these adorable little jars at World Market. —es

  • Dawnie Campbell

    I have a question. My mother in law went traveling I asked her to bring me back some sand which she did.

    She went to the Great Lakes (US), to maine and to Florida. She brought back 11 bags of sand for me but forgot to label them. She is retired and lives 1/2 time in mexico and travels the other 1/2 of the year.

    Thank you,

    Dawnie Campbell
    Seattle, WA

    Is there any way you could identify these sands if I photographed them and emailed you the macro shots of the sand?

    If you are able to identify any of these, in trade I can send you some of this sand or other sands that I have that you may not have.

    Dawnie—Boy, I am no sand expert! So I wouldn’t have a clue where the sand came from. Perhaps someone at a university could help? —es

  • Elle

    I read that same magazine you referred to and it also inspired me to start my own collection. I’ve collected sand from about 10 locations, but haven’t gotten to displaying them yet. Do you by any chance remember the magazine? I’d love to go the library and look it up.
    Thanks for sharing, it makes it seem like a very small world!

    Elle—No, I don’t have that magazine info. So sorry! Hope you find a way to display your collection. —es

  • Tracy Tobias

    I have my sand in the exact same jars, as well as a few other similar looking jars that I purchased at the Container Store. I was inspired by the exact same article. I too wish I had been saving from earlier travels. I’ve been to so many amazing beaches in my travels – Whitehaven beach in Australia – the whitest, softest sand I’ve ever seen, Pink Sand beach in Eluthera, Green Sand beach in Hawaii, Tahati AND I wasn’t yet collecting sand. I’m searching the internet to trade since I now have over a dozen great sands from the Middle East, including some PURPLE SAND from Petra, Jordan. So fun! Happy Travels! Don’t forget the baggies.

    Tracy—Your list of exotic colored sands makes me long to see these places in person! Thanks for stopping in and sharing. (Amen to the baggies.) —es

  • http://vrharbor.com flash jervis

    thanks for the website. I had no idea so many people were interested in collecting sand!



  • http://www.seasidecollections.com Tracy

    Hello fellow sand collectors!

    We have a great way for you to save your sand collections – elegant, recycled glass bottles with custom engraving…we are an earth-friendly business dedicated to preserving our beachs and oceans for future generations!

    Check us out at http://www.seasidecollections.com.

    Neat! Thanks for stopping in, Tracy. —es

  • Steve

    I have over 200 jars of sand from USA, Fiji,Bali, England , Ireland but about 90% of Australian beaches. My wife was amazed that there are this many people out there.

    Wow! That’s quite a collection. I’ve not traveled enough to have so many, but the ones I have are special to me b/c of the people I traveled with. —es

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  • Nick C

    I never knew other people had this idea! I am BRAND new to the idea of collecting sand so I only have one sample (in 2007 I visited Egypt and collected samples from the Pyramids of Giza). I plan on collecting a bunch more!
    Thanks for sharing your pictures!

  • amelia

    Where can i buy thes elovely bottles, or if anyone else have alternate bottles please let me know

    • Jean

      Use glass apothecary jars, like the ones that yankee candles are in. You can order them on line or at art stores. I have been collecting for over 18 years and have 100 large bottles of sand on a free standing shelf in my bathroom.

  • dyah

    Now i feel That not I’m alone colecting the same one.I really happy to know that many people have the same idea to collect sands. I’m from Indonesia,witha many beaches we have..I collect more than 10 variant sand,including Bali sands and Qatar Sand.i put them to sort of little bottles and jar bottle,dont have to same size,it add more beautiful look of them..just nice to see you all..

  • http://www.hikethroughlife.com Lindsay

    Thanks for the tips on sand collecting. We love to go hiking and collect sand from all the places we’ve been.

    Happy collecting! And hiking. —es

  • philippe

    I’m Philippe from France. I’m a sand collector to.
    if you want we can trade some sands. I’ve sample of all over the world, and I look for sands of Caribbean islands.
    See you later.

    Salut, Philippe! Thanks for your offer to trade, but the sands I’ve collected are very small samples, so I’m not really trading about. I highly recommend the Caribbean Islands though—lovely place to visit! Hope you get there someday. —es

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  • Shelley

    I wondered is there any problem bringing sand into France. My daughter is going to stay with a family and the son collects sand. She wants to take him some from Australia. Hope you can help.

    So sorry, but I’m not an expert and know nothing about the legality of transporting sand. I just have a few little jars from the places I’ve visited, collected for my own enjoyment. Best wishes. —es

  • http://sandonthebrain.wordpress.com Jorie

    Oh Happiness! Here I thought that a) I was probably doing somethng terrible taking sand from beaches for my own collection… and b) that no one did this! How wrong I was. Today I have found several articles and pages about sand collectors! I started a small blog (SandOnTheBrain)about islands and sandy things. I too saw a picture in a magazine; it was a little shadow box with little vials of sand in them, each with a raffia label of the location hanging neatly from the neck. I do something similar, but sadly only have a handful of locations I collected from. If only I too had started this years ago!! I am even considering a cruise for my next vacation; not only to see more places, but to collect more sand in one trip! Ha ha! Thanks for your post. Will need to check your links soon as I have time. Cheers!

    Hello, Jorie! My collection is small but meaningful, representing places I’ve been with loved ones—and it’s a small amount of sand too (sort of like taking a shell as a memento). Best wishes as you enjoy the beaches of the world! —es

  • Cathy

    I order my vials from http://www.specialtybottle.com/. I would love to do some exchanging with like-minded individuals – I don’t have a ton of sand but I do have a bit of extra from Spain, France, Italy and the Caribbean that I would be willing to trade.

    Cathy, So nice to hear from you and thanks for providing the link for the containers. I think all the visitors here will appreciate it. And you are so kind to offer a trade, but I am only collecting sand from places I’ve visited personally, and I don’t have extra to send your way. But perhaps others who are interested in sand and make their way here can contact you and it will lead to a trade! Blessings to you. —es

  • Mike

    Hi cathy if you still look on here contact me at pompeyfan_mike@hotmail.com, currently travelling round the world but half way through now and the the sand i have collected but happy to take more if you want me’to post you some (just pay cost of postage) where you from?

  • ramyadelhi

    Hey… I too collect sand… From the first beach I went to till now and have done nothing with it till now (still lying around in packets!) Want to do something creative other than jars… I mean your collection looks cool, but I want something out of the way! Any more ideas???

    • Tracy

      Check out seasidecollections.com!

  • Jeff

    Hi. I have started to collect sand as a way for my family and I to look back on our favorite vacations. I 32 samples from 5 countries. I have the sand stored in baby jars that I painted the lids an aluminum color. I used address return labels to identify the beach and state or country. They are displayed on a shadow box I amde along with various shells, sea glass, and drift wood I have found.

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  • Dionne

    Hi Erin. I found your adorable World Market jars, but mind if I ask another “copycat” question? How did you make your labels? They look much neater than the ones I made. Thanks!

    • http://fillingmypatchofsky.com erinstraza

      I made the tags in a Word doc using Copperplate Light 10, printed on plain white paper on a laser printer. I can’t remember the measurements I used, but I cut them all the same size (tags w/fewer characters just have more white space). I think I then pulled out a strip of regular tape and placed the tag face down on the sticky side, then cut the ends to give about the same amount of tape on the top/bottom/sides. I hope that helps!

  • Heather Graham

    Yours is beautiful! At this point mine is fairly haphazard in a variety of jars. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0e6ec9031292e96a814d3947c47942817d13b5a009f9fa227098cdcd212bbc40.jpg

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