Mineral Guide > Precious Stones > Agate gem stone

Agate gem stone

Agate gem stoneAgate is a form of the common mineral quartz. From other forms of that mineral it differs in being made up of minute layers and in being variegated in color.

The colors may appear in the form of bands or clouds. The handed agates appear to be made up of parallel layers, sometimes straight, but more often wavy or curved in outline. These layers or bands differ in color from one another, exhibiting shades of white, gray, blue, yellow, red, brown or black.
To the naked eye they appear to vary in width from the finest lines to a width of a quarter of an inch or more. In reality, all the bands visible to the naked eye are made of finer ones, to be seen only with the microscope.

Thus, in a single inch of thickness of agate Sir David Brewster, using the microscope, counted seventeen thousand and fifty layers. Besides differing in color, the layers differ in transparency and porosity, and these properties add to the variegated appearance of the agate.

On account of their beauties of color and outline, agates have been known and prized from the earliest times. They are mentioned by many of the ancient Greek writers, and the name agate is a corruption of the name Achates, a river in Sicily, whence the first stones of this kind used by the Greeks were obtained.

This and neighboring localities continued to be the source of supply until the fifteenth century, when agates were found to occur in large quantities near Oberstein and Idar, on the banks of the river Nahe, in the duchy of Oldenburg.

The industry of cutting and polishing the agates on a large scale was soon established there, and these places are to this day the center of the agate industry.

The agates used most extensively at the present time are not, however, those found about Oberstein, but come from a region about one hundred miles in length extending from the province of Rio Grande do Sul, of southern Brazil, into northern Uruguay.

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