What is Agate?
Agate is a translucent variety of microcrystalline quartz. It is used as a semiprecious stone when it is of desirable quality and color. Agate generally forms by the deposition of silica from groundwater in the cavities of igneous rocks. The agate deposits in concentric layers around the walls of the cavity, or in horizontal layers building up from the bottom of the cavity. These structures produce the banded patterns that are characteristic of many agates.
Agate occurs in a wide range of colors, which include brown, white, red, gray, pink, black, and yellow. The colors are caused by impurities and occur as alternating bands within the agate. The different colors were produced as groundwaters of different compositions seeped into the cavity. The banding within a cavity is a record of water chemistry change. This banding gives many agates the interesting colors and patterns that make it a popular gemstone.
Agates have been used as gemstones for thousands of years. They were some of the earliest stones fashioned by people. Today they are cut into cabochons, beads, small sculptures, and functional objects such as paperweights and bookends. Agate cabochons are popular and used in rings, earrings, pendants, and other jewelry objects. Agate beads are commonly made into necklaces and earrings. Some have been used as marbles.
Agate is the most popular rough for producing tumbled stones. It is generally inexpensive and can be tumbled with good results by beginners. It has a hardness of seven and can be loaded into a rock tumbler with jasper and any of the quartz varieties.
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More About Agate:
Most agate has unimpressive colors and patterns. However, agate is a porous material that readily accepts dye. Most of the spectacularly colored agates sold in the gemstone trade have been dyed. Rarely, the color patterns of an agate form interesting landscape scenes. These are sought after by collectors.
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