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All About Agate
What is an Agate?
Do you love the beautiful semi-precious stone agate? We live on a beautiful planet with a rich geological history, and many lovely gemstones are dug out of the core of the earth. One of the more plentiful and varied of these gemstones is agate. It is classed as a semi-precious stone and is a variety of chalcedony that is banded in different coloured layers.
It is also a very finely grained gemstone and is found in many different and vibrant colours, such as blues, greens, browns, reds and white. Blue and green are the most desirable colours as they tend to be rarer than the other colours. The uniqueness of each individual agate is that patterns and colours are never repeated and that there seems to be an infinite amount of possible colour and pattern combinations.
This beautiful gemstone can form in lots of different types of rock, but is mainly associated with volcanic rocks and ancient lava flows, where the agate forms in cavities in the rock. It forms by siliceous matter forming in banded layers on the walls of the rock cavity. It is only when the nodules are transversely cut that the banded appearance of the semi-precious stone becomes apparent.
History of Agate
According to ancient tradition, this gemstone was given its name by the Greek naturalist and philosopher Theophrastus who had found some specimens along the banks of the Achates river in south western Sicily sometime between the 3rd and 4th century BC. Agate was a semi-precious stone commonly used in antiquity for hardstone carving and many examples of carved agate have been excavated from key archaeological sites such as the Minoan palace Knossos on the Greek island of Crete.
It was also utilised by the Sumerians, the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks to make jewelry, beads and religious decorations. In ancient times, they were also worn by warriors going in to battle as it was believed that they protected the wearer from danger and boosted their courage in times of adversity. It was also thought to be a powerful talisman against thirst and high fevers.
Where is Agate Found?
It is one of the more abundant gemstones found in the earth’s crust and is mined in many parts of the world. The USA is probably one of the biggest producers, but it is also found in Germany, India, Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, Nepal, Italy and Madagascar. Because it is found in so many states of the USA and is such a popular gemstone, several varieties of agate have been designated the state gemstone for a number of US states including Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Montana, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Arizona.
Types of Agate
This is a varied and abundant semi-precious stone and there are several different types of this beautiful gemstone that come from different parts of the world:
Blue Lace Agate – is characterised by light blue bands that form lacy or wavy patterns
Greek Agate – the source of Greek Agate is the Mediterranean island of Sicily where the Ancient Greek Colony used it to make beads and decoration as far back as 400BC. Greek agate from antiquity was generally a tan brown to white colour, but now any colour stone from Sicily is known as Greek Agate.
Moss Agate – is also known as dendritic agate, and they exhibit delicate lacy green patterns which were formed by the presence of manganese and iron oxides in the gemstone.
Fossil Agate – is formed from fossilised or petrified wood that has had any of its organic material replaced by agate.
Brazilian Agate – can be fairly large stones and occur in brownish tones interspersed with layers of white and gray. Brazilian agate is often dyed in different colours for ornamental purposes.
Lake Superior Agate – is found on the shores of Lake Superior and is an agate that is striped in rich reds, yellows or orange colours due to the prescence of iron that has seeped into the gemstone.
Botswana Agate – fine agate from Botswana in mainly pink colours bending into whites, banded with fine lines.
Fire Agate - a very recent discovery as they were first found as recently as 1945. To date fire agate is only found in the south west of the USA and Mexico and they are very special gemstones that contain a scintillating array of shimmering colours. A high quality gem grade fire agate is a rare and valuable gemstone. This is a totally unique variety of chalcedony and the finest examples that display the full spectrum of iridescent colour have been compared to the highest grade black opal.
Properties of Agate
Agate is a very hard stone, with a hardness rating of 7-9 on the Mohs scale and because of this is often used to make the pestles and mortars that are used to grind and mix harsh chemicals. However, despite its hardness, it can chipped of cracked rather easily so care needs to be taken. It is used extensively for decorative purposes, and agate ornaments and jewelry are enormously popular. Although this semi precious stone naturally occurs in a wide variety of colours, it is often dyed to enhance its natural colour as it is a very porous gemstone and readily absorbs the dye.
When used in jewelry, it is frequently formed into beads or cabochons, which are gemstones that have been shaped and polished as opposed to faceted. It is a very popular semi-precious stone for use in necklaces, pendants, rings and earrings, and when cut into slices it is used to make coasters, bowls and other decorative items for the home.
To bring out its full beauty and lustre, agate needs to be polished and sliced open to display the exquisite patterns and colours hidden in the gemstone. They are very affordable gemstones, which makes them a wonderful semi-precious stone for use in costume jewelry and they look really stunning when set in gleaming sterling silver. They also very often used for carving cameos, with the blue, red and green stones being the most popular for this purpose..
Agates in Crystal Healing
As agate has been known and used since antiquity, there are many traditions surrounding the healing and metaphysical properties of the gemstone. Agate is regarded as an incredibly healing stone and is thought to help treat stomach ailments, fevers, and circulation problems. Agate can also be used to soothe skin problems. It is also a good crystal to use for insomnia and to promote pleasant dreams, and is often given to children to wear or carry if they suffer from nightmares or night terrors.
On a spiritual level, this stone is thought to help with balance and is a good gemstone to wear when meditating. Moss agates are especially believed to be useful in strengthening your connection to the natural world. Agate is regarded as the birthstone for the month of September and the zodiac sign of Gemini, and is also the gemstone associated with the 12th and 14th wedding anniversaries.
Choosing the Best Agate Jewelry
There is a huge selection of agate jewelry and home decorations available for you to choose from in the stores, but one of the very best places to look for great pieces is online. Because it can be relatively inexpensive it makes a wonderful gift at Christmas or for birthdays. If you have a friend or loved one whose birthday is in September or is a Gemini, then why not delight them with a gift of their very own birthstone jewelry?
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