11 Different Types of Agate
Agate is an incredibly striking gemstone due to its enticing coloring and unique structure. However, there isn’t just one type of agate. There are multiple versions of the stone, each with its own unique characteristics. Here’s a closer look at the agate gemstone, including an overview of 11 different types of agate and some commonly asked questions.
What Are Agates?
Agates are a type of chalcedony, which is a mineral group that includes gemstones like aventurine, bloodstone, carnelian, chrysoprase, jasper, and onyx. Chalcedony is technically a type of quartz.
What makes agate unique is that it’s a banded chalcedony. As a result, there are highly-defined segments that can have varying levels of color and transparency.
Is Agate a Rock or a Mineral?
Technically, agate is a silica mineraloid. It’s naturally occurring and doesn’t exhibit crystallinity, but it doesn’t have the exact structure of a traditional mineral.
How Do I Identify an Agate Stone?
Usually, the easiest way to identify agate is to look for specific characteristics and its composition. Agate gems contain chalcedony minerals and exhibit clear layers. Generally, the stone is translucent, though some bands may appear opaquer or more transparent than others.
How Is an Agate formed?
The agate semi precious gemstone that forms when silica-rich water fills rock voids, particularly volcanic rock voids. As the water leaves, silica mineral deposits remain, and they functionally form gemstone crystals. Over time, numerous layers develop, leading to an agate.
History of the Mineral Agate
It’s believed that agate was discovered as far back as the 3rd or 4th century BCE. The name is derived from the Achates River in Sicily, Italy, where the gemstone was first discovered in an official sense.
Agate was used as an ornamental stone in Ancient Greece, often featured in seal stones and jewelry. Beads were a popular option, with evidence showing they were used by those living in the Indus Valley civilization.
Where Are Agates Found?
Agate is an incredibly common gemstone, and it’s found all over the world. It’s present in multiple US states, particularly those associated with volcanic activities. Brazil, Germany, and Uruguay are also known as sources of agate. However, other nations also have surprising quantities of agate, including Austria, Canada, Chile, Iraq, Morocco, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, and more.
Metaphysical Properties of Agate
The metaphysical properties of agate aren’t exactly set, as some may vary depending on a person’s belief system and the exact type of agate involved. However, many consider agate a grounding stone. It’s said to be soothing or calming and helps balance positive and negative energies.
Many also feel that agate is a stone of self-reflection and perception, allowing a person to improve their well-being and identify challenges or obstacles that are holding them back, creating opportunities for correction. Some also think it helps keep a person’s expectations realistic, particularly during times of change.
Some believe that agate also possesses healing properties, particularly when it comes to the lymphatic and circulatory systems. However, there’s no scientific proof that agate or any other stone can prevent or treat any medical condition. As a result, agate isn’t a substitute for genuine medical care.
Types of Agate: What Are the Different Types of Agate?
Blue Lace Agate
Largely originating from Kenya and Namibia, blue lace agate features soft blue to lilac coloring with white banding. The banding is usually wavy, and the edges may be slightly speckled, creating the look of lace.
Botswana agate is a clearly banded type of agate that exhibits an area of colors, particularly gray and pink. The stones originate specifically from Botswana, which is in the southern part of Africa.
Crazy Lace Agate
Crazy lace agate features distinctive colors and an array of complex patterns due to various inclusions. While there are distinct bands, they aren’t necessarily linear. As a result, there are often swirled sections and ample amounts of curves.
Dendritic Agate (Plentitude Stone)
Dendric agate contains dendrites, which are fern-like structures created by various mineral inclusions. The patterning is often incredibly bold, and no two pieces feature the same imagery, ensuring every cut sample is inherently unique.
Fire agate is one of the more opaque versions of agate, often coming in rich, fiery hues like yellow, orange, and red. It has an iridescent quality that creates the appearance of metallic-like shades, causing the stone to glow coppery, brassy, or golden.
Fortification Agate or Banded Agate
Fortification agate – also referred to as banded agate – has clear lines that are typically curved bands incredibly close to parallel. Often, the look of fortification agate is what comes to people’s minds when they envision the stone.
Iris agate has the banded look you expect with agate, but it also has a unique feature. Some segments – or the entire specimen – have an optical quality that creates an iridescent effect, leading to a rainbow of colors when viewed from different angles.
Lake Superior Agate
Lake Superior agate is found near Lake Superior in North America. Often, the stones feature distinct layers, but they often form as irregular spheres. The coloring can vary, though there are typically sections with a reddish hue due to the presence of iron.
Moss Agate and Plume Agate
Moss agate is a green and white version of the stone that has green inclusions, that create an organic shape, not unlike moss. Plume agate is similar to green moss agate, due to its inclusions. It typically exhibits patterns that resemble cloud formations or smoke, and some can look like feathers.
Picture Agate or Scenic Agate
Picture agate is an agate gemstone with inclusions that create images that resemble nature scenes. Also referred to as scenic agate, this version of the gem is often one of the most popular due to its unique look.
Turritella agate contains silicified shells, leading to unique patterns within the stone. Typically, these stones are found in Wyoming and feature earthy hues with translucent to semi-transparent sections.
Common Questions about Agate Stones
What Is Grape Agate?
Grape agate isn’t technically an agate, as it lacks the characteristic banding found in agate. Instead, it’s a market name for a purple stone that features spherical quartz crystal formation, generally with a druzy-like surface. The name is due to the stone’s coloring and the fact that the spheres can resemble a bunch of grapes.
What Is the Rarest Agate Color?
Generally, the rarest of agate types by color is purple. However, dendritic agate – which is also called the plentitude stone – is often the most valuable. Iris agate is also highly prized due to its striking coloring. Ellensburg Blue agates are another incredibly rare version, featuring a gentle purplish-blue hue that can have a pinkish tint under certain lighting.
Another rare variety is polyhedroid agate. With this, the agate forms in distinct geometric shapes. Often, there are straight lines that create quadrilaterals or triangles, typically due to the straight edges of the rocks surrounding the void where it forms.
What Is the Most Common Agate?
Overall, fortification agate is the most common version. That’s particularly true when the stone contains primarily classic colors associated with agate, including white, red, brown, gray, and yellow.
Are Blue Agate and Blue Lace Agate the Same Thing?
Blue agate and blue lace agate aren’t necessarily the same thing. The main difference is the patterning. Blue lace agate has edges on the bands that create a lace-like pattern. With blue agate, other designs may exist, including more traditional bands with distinctly smooth edges.
However, both can have highly similar coloring and composition. As a result, small pieces of both stones without much banding may look identical.
Is Carnelian Agate?
Carnelian in and of itself isn’t agate. Instead, it’s a red, orange, or amber-colored chalcedony mineral. However, some agates feature carnelian. As a result, a carnelian with banding is technically a version of agate. But if the banding isn’t present, carnelian isn’t jointly classified as an agate.
Is Onyx Agate?
As with carnelian, onyx isn’t necessarily a type of agate on its own. However, if it features banding, it’s potentially considered an onyx agate. In that case, the bands – which may feature different hues of onyx or other kinds of chalcedony – are what make it an agate. If the colored bands themselves aren’t present, the piece is only classified as onyx.
How Do I Tell If an Agate Is Real?
Genuine agate features clear layers and banding. If the layers aren’t distinct, then there’s a decent chance that the stone isn’t agate. Additionally, agate won’t contain bubbles, so bubbles within the gem are a red flag.
Agate also doesn’t come in especially bright colors. However, some people dye agate to achieve incredibly vibrant hues. In that case, the overly strong coloration isn’t necessarily a sign that the stone itself isn’t authentic, just that it was treated to create hues that don’t occur in nature. Similarly, overly even coloring within the bands typically indicates the agate stone being dyed, as natural agate usually has some slight variations, even within individual bands.
Another sign of a fake is if the surface is easy to scratch. Agate has a Mohs hardness rating of 7, so it’s pretty tough. If there are scratches on the surface not caused by cutting tools, that’s usually a sign of a fake.
Agate is also a dense stone. As a result, it feels heavy for its size in most cases. If an agate gemstone seems light in hand, it’s unlikely that it’s a genuine agate stone.
Finally, if the entire piece of agate is opaque, that usually means it’s not genuine. While the degree of transparency can vary, agate is generally closer to translucent. As a result, light does pass through the stone, albeit a bit impeded. If no light penetrates through any band, it’s likely a fake.