Diamond in the Rough – Agate

The love of the hunt is a huge part of the fun and excitement for rock hounds, gem collectors and gemmologists trying to unveil that…

The love of the hunt is a huge part of the fun and excitement for rock hounds, gem collectors and gemmologists trying to unveil that amazing specimen. Whether it’s looking through a parcel of polished stones, fossicking through clay and dirt, or picking over chunks of rough, you never know what you might discover. Agates, although a very common and abundant gemstone, have so many varying patterns and colours that it’s always an exciting journey when you uncover the ‘diamond in the rough.’

Not often held in high regard amongst the sparkle of the precious corundums, beryls and tourmalines, agates are often overlooked and under appreciated although they have so much to offer. Through the endless stones and specimens of agate there are still many unique and incredible pieces out there to be discovered.

Quartz/silica makes up just over 12% of our earth’s crust so you’re bound to discover some wonderful, unusual and amazing forms of quartz. Agate is a cryptocrystalline variety of quartz (SiO2), chiefly chalcedony. Cryptocrystalline quartz is deposited at relatively low temperatures by circulating ground waters or by magmatic waters that have cooled to temperatures near that of the earth’s surface. The ground waters on the earth’s crust are rich in silica and often approach saturation in silica content. As a result chalcedony/agate or other forms of quartz are often deposited in cavities and veins/cracks in the near surface rocks forming as a nodule or mass showing botryoidal or stalactitic forms. 

Named according to the pattern, inclusions or source of the material, the beauty of agate is founded by the colours, patterns and, in some cases, varying diaphaneity from band to band. Bunny Bedi, owner and designer at Made In Earth, still finds beauty in this every day mineral.

“After just over a couple of decades in the industry you’d think I’d be jaded when it comes to gemstones but they still surprise me with their beauty. When it comes to agates, well, there’s an abundance but there’s always a batch of stones that catches my eye and excites me. With a long and ever-growing list of agates, I still manage to add a new one to my collection each year. This year we found a very pretty batch of Botswana Agate with pale pink, warm browns and apricot hues, colours of the season!”

You’ll find every colour under the sun in agate, from earthy toned banded varieties to bright, multi-coloured and delicately patterned stones, iridescent Mexican fire agate, pale blue/lavender blue lace agate and the aptly named ‘crazy’ lace agate.

Forming in large masses, cutters have the freedom to fashion stones into a variety of sizes and shapes but are typically polished into smooth cabochons or slices to best showcase their patterns. With a hardness of 7 they are suitable for most types of jewellery, with matching pairs particularly impactful for earrings.

Made In Earth sets small 10-20mm agate geodes from Vermont, USA in their jewellery designs. Each half of the geode retained and sold as a ring and pendant set, friendship pendants or earrings, the small sparkly stones are like miniature crystal caves as they are lined with quartz crystals.

Keeping a low profile in the jewellery world, agate should be celebrated for its abundance, variety and beauty. Because a stone isn’t rare doesn’t mean it should be overlooked as a potential mineral for exquisite designs. Hunt through the earth’s seemingly endless supply of agate, find that one-of-a-kind stone and rediscover a love and appreciation for agate.

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