This stone is actually a multi-layered Chalcedony, occasionally from a striped kind of material, but more often in the form of tonsils, that can be meandering, ellipsoidal or similarly shaped. Agate is one of few semi-precious stones that nature has endowed with unusual and wonderful texture in the form of concentric circles of different shapes and colours, resembling that of a beautiful landscape or an unusual shell. The colour spectrum of this stone is vast and includes white, red, pink, brown, black, yellow and gray. Impurities and lines within the stone, affecting its colour, are simultaneously giving it an interesting look that makes it a popular and attractive ornament. Agate is perhaps the most popular among the opaque stones.
Agate has been known since ancient times, and according to one of the first mineralogists Pliny the Elder, it was named after the river Akhates in Sicily. Yet, this name is known in some Anglo-Saxon and Roman languages too, so other origins are possible.
In order to improve colour intensity, Agate is sometimes artificially dyed in a manner known from the ancient times, and it was especially used in Ancient Rome. To obtain the red colour, Agate is treated with iron oxide, and after it is heated to high temperatures. Yellow is obtained in a similar way.
Agate occurs in nature in many different variations that are intriguing. Thus, for instance, the famous "Agate wood", lightly coloured, airy and with patterns, are usually made of manganese minerals, which resemble fern or wood. This kind of Agate is called dendritic Agate. Those markings are usually black or dark brown. There is also a kind of "scenery Agate" because its patterns are more reminiscent of the different landscape structures than "Moss Agate", which has patterns akin to moss or grass. There are more than fifty different kinds of Agate, making Agate one of the most diversified stones.
Agate was used as gemstone for thousands of years, and is one of the earliest stones that has found its application in the jewellery and fashion production. This gemstone is usually treated en cabochon in particular for making brooches, rings, pendants for necklaces, earrings, and other jewellery. In the production of earrings and necklaces, granular processing is most frequently used. Agate is also used for making small sculptures, functional objects such as book holders, and sometimes it has been used as a marble stone.
In ancient times Agate was highly valued as a talisman. It was believed to extinguish excessive thirst and protect against fever. It is known that the Persian mystics and magicians used Agate to change the path of the storm, protecting villages and crops. Agate was respected 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, where it was used to craft scarabs, cups and many other items, as well as rings and other jewellery. Very famous is the collection of four thousand Agate bowls, which were enthusiastically amassed by Mithridates VI, King of Pontus. Agate bowls were very popular in the Byzantine Empire, and this tradition continued into the Renaissance period in Europe. Many museums in Europe, including the Louvre, have wonderful examples of Agate bowls and vases.
When the major and very significant mines of Agate, in Idar-Oberstein, the Nahe river valley in Germany, were exhausted in 1827, Agate was found in Brazil, a locale known for a large number of sites of various other precious and semi-precious stones.
Idar-Oberstein valley today is known for the finest treatment and fretwork of Agate. Other gemstones are being delivered from all over the world and being crafted at Idar-Oberstein.
We can say that Agate is not only a very nice ornament, but it continues to be considered an immensely popular and powerful talisman.
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