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BYUH alumna explains how a hobby of collecting sea glass became her jewelry business

Three examples of Tobon's jewelry. They are all gold chain necklaces with a white and black shell, dark blue sea glass, or light blue sea glass as the pendant.
Anna McCarrey Tobon's jewelry.

Born and raised in Laie, BYU–Hawaii alumna Anne McCarrey Tobon, said she sees a connection between the sea glass she uses for her jewelry business “Wrap the Sea” and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“If you think about us, we’re kind of like broken glass. We’re sharp. We can hurt people. We’re not that pretty, just like broken [glass],” explained Tobon.

Through friction with the sand and passage of time, sea glass is made, and similarly, she shared, “We become smooth and really beautiful through the atonement of Jesus Christ.”

Collector to jeweler

Eve McCarrey, a freshman from Laie majoring in political science, said she enjoyed seeing her sister’s collections “turn into jewelry.”

Having grown up in Hawaii, Tobon said she loves going to the beach almost every day. Around five years ago, she said she started collecting sea glass and seashells. Previously, she hadn’t seen them because she often went to beaches that didn’t have them.

Anne McCarrey Tobon has long, blonde hair and is wearing a dark navy blue jumpsuit while on the sand at the beach and holding a piece of blue sea glass.

“But I started going to these beaches that had more shells and more sea glass. Most of the North Shore is actually pretty good, [such as] Ke Iki Beach.” She said her favorite place to collect these items is Goat Island.

McCarrey said she sometimes goes with her sister to collect sea glass and seashells on Goat Island. “We have this little secret spot called ‘the Sea Glass Cave.’ So, we go there sometimes if the weather’s just right.”

Tobon said she didn’t know what sea glass was when she first saw them. “I just saw it, and I thought it was pretty. So, I started collecting it. And then it turns out it’s a really big community [sea glass collecting] all around the world, even in Japan [and] England.”

Sea glass is sharp broken glass that has been smoothed out after being in the ocean for 50 years or more, Tobon explained. For seashells, Tobon added, it is illegal to collect shells with animals inside, so she only collects empty shells.

When her husband saw she collected an incredible amount of sea glass and seashells, he told her to do something with it, Tobon shared.

On her birthday two years ago, she said her husband gifted her a jewelry [making] kit, and that’s how it all began.

Trash to treasure

Tobon said she started playing around with the kit using her sea glass. She was able to make necklaces and earrings.

One day, Lindsay Hadley, an adjunct faculty in Business & Government, saw Tobon on campus wearing one of her homemade necklaces. Tobon said Hadley, who loves sea glass, was amazed and asked Tobon to make her jewelry for Christmas presents.

Tobon said at the time, she had only been using cheap materials to make her jewelry, but when Hadley said she would buy more than 20 necklaces, Tobon explained, she went out and bought nicer materials, such as 14 karat gold.

“That helped me get started because I knew that someone wanted to buy it,” she shared. Tobon’s jewelry consists of wrapped pieces of sea glass as the center pendant on either gold or silver chains.

A close-up shot of some gold dangle earrings with two pieces of light green sea glass as pendants, which are wrapped in gold.
Some earrings Tobon made.

Tobon said she named her business “Wrap the Sea” because she wraps the treasures she finds in the ocean. “It’s also eco-friendly jewelry because sea glass is pretty much trash. When I think of ‘Wrap the Sea,’ I also think of wrapping the sea in a hug. [It is] our responsibility to help clean the ocean and help the ocean be in its best state.”

McCarrey said knowing her sister’s business is an environmentally conscious company makes her even prouder. “Trash on the beach is definitely a huge problem, especially here in Hawaii. It’s good that she can make a difference by clearing up the beach and having people wear her creations.”

These days, Tobon said, packaging centers mainly use plastic, such as sandwich wrappings and plastic bottles. “Fifty years ago, there wasn’t a lot of plastic. It was just glass pretty much and that’s what they’ve been using for food and a lot of other things.”

She added people used to dump their garbage into the ocean, such as glass bottles and various containers. Tobon said she even found pieces of an old-school T.V. screen.

She explained sea glass comes in various colors because manufacturers already gave artificial coloring to the glasses, and some remain that same color. She added, “Some glass, it starts off white, but over time it turns purple, or it turns blue.”

Branching out

When she started, Tobon said her main customers were her family and friends. “They’ve been really impressed with how [the business] has been doing. ... We’re all just kind of surprised because I didn’t know that I was good at making jewelry. It’s just something that I learned through trying.”

McCarrey said she’s proud of her sister and is especially thrilled when she sees people wearing her sister’s creations. She added the quality of Tobon’s products has improved, specifically the necklace itself. “Before, it was recycled chain, so they weren’t super good. But now she switched to sterling silver and then [14-karat] gold. Then she also just started her Instagram page too.”

Alexa Springer, a junior from Laie majoring in communications, said she saw Tobon’s jewelry through a mutual friend’s repost on her Instagram account. “The same day, I ran into her husband, Sam, who also told me about it, and he was so passionate and excited for Anne [Tobon].”

The first item Springer said she purchased was a honey golden-colored sea glass on a gold chain. “It’s eye-catching with the wrapped style Anne [Tobon] has for her pieces,” she said.

During a sale on Valentine’s Day, Springer bought a “multiple stacked white puka shells necklace,” which she said was exactly what she was looking for in terms of “length and style.”

Facebook and Instagram: @wrapthesea.