Agate and some of its properties.
Agate is distinguished by its many, often vivid colours . The bands of colours may be white, red, blue, grey, mauve, brown or black. These are irregular and sometimes curved. The parallel bands follow the wavy contour of the cavity where silica gel solidified.
The stone’s name was derived from the River Achates in southwest Sicily, since it was discovered in that area. This gemstone is one of the oldest known minerals. It was valued by the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians who used it for amulets, receptacles and ornamental pieces.
The Greeks and Romans carved it into cameos and intaglios, and the latter used it for intaglio signet rings.
This stone was especially valued during medieval times. Today it remains very popular for brooches, cameos and other jewellery. It is used as a decorative stone for inlaid work, such as boxes, table tops, table mats, clock faces and ornaments, to name just a few.
Agate can be translucent, transparent, or sometimes opaque. Wavy bands are often inside a geode (nodule) of Agate. The colourful bands are best seen when the geode is sawn through and the flat surfaces of the sections are polished. Cutting the stone into thin slices allows light to pass through and display the bands.
All Agates respond well to polishing and they are strong enough for everyday jewellery.
Agates form in cavities and cracks, mostly in volcanic rocks where they fill the cavities that were made by escaping gas during the solidification of molten rock. Agate is found worldwide. Western Germany was once the prime source, first found in 1548, but this is now depleted. Today the main sources of this gemstone are Brazil and United States in the west of Montana and Idaho. Australia and Italy are sources too and a small quantity also comes from from Madagascar.
There are many types of Agate. Banded Agate are distinctive by their bands of different colours. Dendritic Agate is the translucent pure white Agate containing amazing “scenes” of black or brown inclusions caused by iron oxides and hydroxides (often looking like trapped fossils). Moss Agate is usually sliced quite thinly to show off the mossy patterns. Fire Agate is a wonderfully eccentric stone of multicolours. Careful cutting brings out the iridescent colour play. The face is the stone, when cut, is often irregular where the cutter has ground away material to bring layers of colour closer to the surface.
These are just a few of the many types of Agate.
Myths and legends suggest that when a person wears Agate, they become more pleasant and agreeable. It is believed to quench the thirst, protect against viruses (including fever) and to cure insomnia. Some tribes in Brazil also believe that Agate can cure the stings of scorpions and bites from poisonous snakes. When cut off from society and often without modern medicines, they use Agate for many ailments.
Muslims often have the gem set into a ring and wear it on the right hand and have the name Allah or Ali inscribed on the ring.
Today it is the Zodiacal birthstone associated with Gemini. It is the birthstone for females with the christian name of Agnes and the male name of Albert.
It is used as the 12th wedding anniversary gemstone and is the Talismanic gem for October.
Venus and Mercury are believed to have planetary influence on this gemstone.
It is seen today in many shapes and forms and it is not unusual to be seen in many homes used in everyday items such as the clock face, shown alongside.
Below are some examples of the wonderful colours of this gemstone.
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