The Beauty of Agates

It is very hard to say anything new about a mineral that so much has been written about by so many very specialized authors. But still, I wanted to put together a concise and easy-to-read article that, after reading it, one feels that one has learned something new about agates. As a jewelry designer, the origin of gemstones captivates me. That is the reason why I like to write about them.

Agate derives its name from the location where a Greek philosopher named Theophrastus found the first stones. That occurred along the shoreline of the Achates River (now called Drills) in southwestern Sicily approximately between the fourth and third centuries BC.

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Anthropologists have found agates at a number of sites, indicating their widespread use in the ancient world, there is evidence that Stone Age men used it more than 15,000 years ago in the art of stone carving and when early civilizations developed, it was valued as a talisman or amulet. In the 1st century B.C. Mithridates, king of Pontus, accumulated a collection of around four thousand agate bowls; that shows the fascination the stone inspired in those times.

Agates are semi-precious gemstones. They are sedimentary rocks formed by silica gels, a variegated type of chalcedony composed of layers of quartz. It occurs in bands of different colors and transparency. Specific traits in the shape and color of the bands are how the stone is identified. When cut at a right angle to the layers, the bright colors of the bands are exposed in all their beauty.

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