Filling a container or shape with layers of Alum Bay’s 21shades of sand has been a favourite holiday tradition since the 1880s, when Queen Victoria was presented with a special sand souvenir.

This means there are thousands of homes all over the UK and around the world, displaying some little glass container full of stripey coloured sands from the Isle of Wight.

Going back as far as the 1880s, when the Queen’s move to Osborne helped boost the Island’s holiday image, tourists have snapped up these traditional sand souvenirs from Alum Bay.

The sands were also used for sand painting pictures, a popular craft in Victorian times known as marmotinto.

In the past, visitors to the bay could climb the foot of the cliffs and dig out the sand themselves. While the removal of minerals from the site is now prohibited by law, the layered sand ornaments remain a fixture of tourist shops, and of course visitors can create their own at The Needles Park. This sand is carefully gathered from frequent rockfalls, so as to protect the cliffs for future generations

Alum Bay sands are made of three minerals, quartz , felspar and mica, which in their pure state are white, and also includes extremely pure white silica, which was once extracted for glass and pottery manufacture. The other colours of sand are produced by contamination by other minerals. The stripey sands were created over millions of years of geology, during which time the sea bed rose, was eroded and then sank beneath the water again.

So, the contents of that little sand ornament on your shelf or windowsill is quite literally millions of years old.

The clear container itself might also be vintage, and some collectors seek out the unusual ones. A quick check on some of the online auction sites will show those little pocket money holiday souvenirs now being sold for up to £30-40 .

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