Agate is a semi-precious, microcrystalline variety of quartz stone that is usually associated with meanings of strength and determination that endure over time. In ancient times, agate stone was very popular in many cultures and communities, it was also an ornament used to decorate the armor and weaponry of warriors as it was believed to impart powers.
Agate is a hard, opaque stone with multiple color inserts running through it in the form of bands. It is the most diverse and popular type of chalcedony.
The color palette in which agate is found is quite diverse – from white and yellow to green and black (nowadays, black agates are extremely popular). Often the colors of the bands can vary significantly even within a single stone.
For example, there are agates with concentric eye-like coloured layers (they are even called “owl eyes” or “eyes”). In such agates, which are only 1 cm wide, there can be about 7000 different layers, which delight the eye with a spectacular arrangement. Although each agate pattern is unique, a ‘template’ can be identified according to the regions where the stones are found. Representative patterns can be identified for particular geographical areas, as the ways in which color inserts are arranged in the stones are similar.
Some examples are Laguna Agate (named after Ojo Laguna, Mexico) or Botswana Agate (after the African country of Botswana). Other kinds of agates contain specific colors or patterns, such as Fire Agate or Eye Agate.
Origins and legends
Agate has been known to mankind since ancient times and has been a valued stone since its discovery. In one version of the legend, the stone’s name comes from the Greek word ahates, meaning ‘happy’. For example, the ancient Greek historian Pliny tells us about an agate stone called “the stone of Pyrrhic”, in whose patterns you could see an image of Apollo and nine muses. Some varieties of agate have been given distinct, no less famous names, such as onyx or sardonyx.
In another version, agate gets its name from the Achates (now known as Drillo) river in Sicily. In ancient Rome agates were worshipped to the goddess Pomona, patron of crops and horticulture. In ancient times, cameos were carved from image-convex agate, and cameos became very popular among the nobility, with some even set with diamonds or other very expensive stones.
Agate spheres were often placed in gardens to protect plants and support their harmonious growth. There are areas of Europe where agate was worn as a talisman or amulet, symbolizing health, prosperity and longevity, and in other areas the stone was considered a protective shield against vampire attack. An Indian legend tells how agate jewelry can soothe young children. In Georgia it became customary for every newborn baby to wear a white agate bead bracelet on the wrist, as the stone has the ability to protect the baby from the negative influences of the world it has just entered.
The history of agate processing is closely linked to the German town of Idar-Oberstein, which evolved with the discovery of agate deposits. Agate and Jasper were found in the Idar-Oberstein region, then cut and polished by local craftsmen. With the discovery of the enormous agate deposits in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, in the 1800s, the stones were sent to Idar-Oberstein to be cut and polished. Idar-Oberstain remains an important center for cutting and polishing agate crystal today.
Properties of Agate
Agate is a rock composed predominantly of cryptocrystalline silica, which is characterized by its fineness and multitude of color varieties. These stones can be found in different types of rocks. Agate stones are naturally found in volcanic rocks but can frequently be found in metamorphic rocks.
Agate is formed by the deposition of layers of silica filler in volcanic vesicles or other cavities. The layers form in stages, with some of the new layers bringing an alternate color to the rock. Because the cavities have an irregular and unique shape, each agate forms its own pattern based on the original shape of the cavity. When a cavity is completely filled, it forms a solid mass of agate, but often it is only partially filled, leaving a void, a void that often has crystalline quartz growths on its innermost layer. This is the cause of the formation of the outer agate lining of most geodes. Popular collecting forms, of agate, include nodules or geodes cut in the middle in two polished cross-sections or thin slabs from cross-sections of nodules or geodes.
Varieties of agate: Moss Agate, Tree Agate, Fire Agate, Carneol Agate, Black Agate, White Agate, Star Agate, Blue Agate.
Note: Can be confused with Onyx or Jasper
Chemical composition: Silicon Dioxide (Quartz)
Hardness: 6.5 – 7 (out of 10)
Luster: glassy-waxy, translucent
Colours: all, but most common are blue and green agates
Quarries: Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, UK, Bolivia or Australia
Shiny and smooth material – Agate has an attractive and colourful appearance. If you touch the agate crystal, it will give you a smooth feeling and your eyes will delight in the brilliance of the stone.
Hardness level – Most agate crystals can withstand higher pressure and have a very hard composition (can be broken by a hydraulic press or similar pressure).
Flexible material – This crystal can be used to create a lot of objects, jewellery or ornaments. It can be processed and shaped into multiple forms.
Energetic and spiritual properties
This stone is able to improve mental function, concentration, perception and analytical skills. It is also believed to relieve anger or inner tension (conflict). Agate has impressive powers of attraction and a great ability to cleanse and stabilize the aura. It eliminates and transforms negativity into positive vibrations.
Health benefits of agate crystal – it is recommended to be worn by people for:
Inner healing – Many people suffer from several mental problems due to rapid growth and daily stress. Agate crystal is able to heal these problems by spreading positivity in the aura and helps the individual to reduce stress and anxiety to enhance their mental health.
Chakra Growth – According to Indian and Japanese mythology, chakra takes into consideration the flow of energy in the human body. It is said that if your chakra is blocked, you may feel weak and need to stimulate it as soon as possible. Using the agate crystal helps stimulate chakra.
Eradicating inner conflict – in ancient times, most people used agate crystals to get rid of inner conflicts. Inner conflicts are stress and tense feelings experienced on an inner level, and wearing the agate crystal helps you get rid of these conflicts.
The crystal, due to its energetic characteristics, is recommended for the following zodiac signs: Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Virgo (Musk Agate), Libra, Scorpio (Botswana Agate), Aries, Sagittarius (Fire Agate), Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces (Blue Agate).
Astrologers say that this stone numerologically influences those born under the influence of the numbers 3, 4 and 8, that it is suitable for wedding anniversaries at 12 and 14, and also has a positive effect on bearers born in the months of May, June and September. Agate has beneficial effects on business people, teachers, professors, orators and generally people working in communication and telecommunications.
How to care for agate jewellery?
It is recommended to clean the stone once a month under warm running water. Although agate has a high hardness, it can be scratched or damaged by gemstones with a higher hardness as well as other materials. Avoid using household chemicals when cleaning agate beads, cameos or other jewellery. Agates can be sensitive to heat, especially dyed agates, and prolonged exposure to sunlight can fade enhanced types of color. Store agate inside a box lined with fine fabric or wrapped in a soft material.