Gemstone Spotlight: Agate

by: Ben Tseytlin - on Antiques & Jewelry

Agate is a member of the quartz family, and thus has a silicon dioxide composition. It is related to jasper, carnelian and bloodstone and is just as beautiful. As a consequence, it is frequently used in tumbled or beaded jewelry, and may be dyed to boost its color.

Agate Origins

This gem was first discovered by the ancient Greeks around the 3rd and 4th centuries BC. It can be found all over in the world, in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Botswana, Mexico, Uruguay, India, USA, Australia and Myanmar. South American stones are distinct in that they do not display specialized markings. Some come in a color which is gray, while other stones may be brown, pink, purple, yellow, green, blue, black, white or red. Agate is usually found in close proximity to other rock types and is volcanic in nature. Some specimens will have a banded texture.

Shopping For Agate

When shopping for agate, bear in mind that most stones will be multicolored. Stones with one color do occur naturally, but are rare and thus will carry a higher price tag. Some agate stones are large and may be found in all sorts of shapes. Many jewelers will give them a cabochon cut to beautify them further, but they may also be sold in basic cuts or slabs which are free form. Many artists like using them for carvings, cameos and other ornamental projects. Unlike other stones and gems, agate is rarely treated. It may be dyed to boost its color however since it is very porous. Compared to rubies, emeralds and diamonds agate is relatively affordable.

How To Wear Agate

Many experts consider loose agate stones to be better than preset jewelry. The reason for this is because once stones are set it is challenging to determine its quality as blemishes might be present which are obscured. Agate is best worn as a ring, necklace or pendant. It is a hard stone that has excellent resistance to wear, and is a popular gem among men because of the many shape/size options available and the tribal look it provides. Many women like wearing it as a bracelet or anklet and sometimes agate is used as a birthstone or class ring.

How To Care For Agate

Agate is easy to clean; all you need is soapy, warm water and a brush that is soft. However, the stone should never be exposed to standard household chemicals or objects which are harder, as it could be damaged or scratched. The stone should also never be exposed to extreme temperatures for long periods of time as it could be cause permanent problems. When stored agate is best placed in a box that is lined with fabric, and it can also be wrapped using a soft cloth. Agate should not be mixed with other gemstones so that it won’t be scratched.