I like to walk along the beach studying the carpet that has been laid before me by the tide: the shells, stones, bits of sea life swirling around in the little whirlpools.

Every now and then, there's a bright, colored glint, and my heart beats a little faster.

Could it be? Is it really a piece of sea glass?

Usually it's not. But once in a while, I find a once-sharp shard that has been twirled and smoothed by the polish of the roiling sea.

I used to have a big jar – I don't know whatever happened to it – to collect Mother Nature's treasures.

Searching for sea glass and interesting shells along the Ocean City beach with my grandmother is one of my earliest childhood memories. She taught me how to discern the rare from the common.

Years later, I've learned sea glass colors are gauged by rarity, from the most common brown, white and Kelly green – likely remnants of old beer bottles – to the most rare oranges and reds. The spectrum also includes hues of yellow, turquoise, pink, cobalt blue, and citron. Also hard to find are soft blue, lime green and amber.

The most coveted of all sea glass -- the orange and red pieces -- probably came from things like Victorian lamps, old railroad lanterns, later Depression glass and automobile brake lights from the days when they were made of glass and not plastic.

Veteran collectors consider red sea glass their "holy grail," according to Richard LaMotte in his colorful 2004 reference guide called Pure Sea Glass – Discovering Nature's Vanishing Gems.

Sea glass often is made into jewelry. One of my favorite pieces is a delicate bracelet of tiny multicolored shards, including a rare red, that my husband gave me a few years ago.

It recently inspired a trend in a home décor. Since I'm such a beach girl, when I decided to nix my old gray professional-grade Calphalon cookware for a dip in the Le Creuset pond and I couldn't make up my mind between the lovely rainbow of choices for my new pots and pans, I decided to mix and match them in beach glass tones. Now my kitchen is adorned with Caribbean, Coastal and Cobalt with a smattering of Dune.

Good to know I can really go wild and add Flame or Cherry cookware and still stay on theme.

Thanks, Gram.