I came across an old friend in Tucson that had a tray full of the most exquisite banded agates I'd ever seen tumble polished and the colors were unlike anything I'd ever come across. These are not the sort of thing I'm typically looking for but they were so well done and so eye catching that I couldn't resist picking some up. The colors are rich and compelling, ranging from black and white to rusty orange and brown. The agate banding is exceptionally fine and reminiscent of Botswana agates, but with far more kinks and turns that form eyes and other wild patterns on virtually every stone! These are pretty good sized agates and I'm selling them in one pound lots to economize on shipping (the lots ship for free). The number of stones in each lot will vary by one or two but the average is about 10 agates. Each is flawlessly tumbled with a very high quality polish. None have chips or scratches and each is truly a treasure unto itself! The photos below show a representative sample of what's in the lot. The smaller group is what a 1 pound lot looks like while the larger groups are there to show how nice the entire lot is. Your lot will be selected from the large pile and will include at least 1 pound of agates.
This year in Tucson I returned to visit the fellow who is mining the amethyst lace stone that I'm making slabs and bookends from currently in the shop (and you can see what I've crafted from it in my eBay store). He's the same guy that introduced me to lapidary more than a quarter of a century ago and he's been travelling the world working different deals that range from mining in Morocco to factory operations in China for his own production. It turns out these agates have literally circled the globe to find their way to you! The agates are field collected in Madagascar and shipped to a factory in China. The Chinese have replicated the techniques of the Idar-Oberstein craftsmen to produce beautiful, natural hues in agate that began as relatively colorless but finely banded agate. Not all agate responds well to these ancient processes, but these clearly do! It' some of the finest end product I've ever seen and I didn't hesitate to bring home a large bag of these gorgeous stones. It feels very much like a pile of real treasure when I empty the bag onto the floor - because it is!!
In the 15th century the world looked very different than it does now (obviously) but it was true of the gem trade as well. The finest agate carvers in the world were in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, and the cabochons and cameos that adorned royal families and the wealthy around the world all largely came from there. As the agate supply dwindled in their local mines, the Germans began scouring the globe to find new sources of the gems they depended on. Fine agate was found in many places such as Brazil, but much of it lacked the colors they craved. Germans being the industrious lot that they are, figured out some treatment methods to draw out, enhance or even introduce color through stones that wasn't seen in their raw form. The processes often involved various types of acids, minerals and heat and could take weeks or even months to produce results. The treatment processes were carefully guarded secrets and many were lost to history, but what they all had in common was that they were not merely surface treatments but rather transformative processes that went through the entire stone. At a microscopic level, agate is somewhat porous, but the degree of porosity varies within each band which allows the color transformation to highlight the banding and the color reveals it in beautiful contrasting hues. I know some of the techniques but have never attempted them myself but apparently someone in China has figured it out! These techniques, while similar in goal I suppose, should not be lumped in with the grotesque neon dye jobs we've all seen on cheap Brazilian agate bookends, slabs and curios. These are much more tasteful and actually replicate the same processes that nature does when the minerals are present in the ground to achieve it. The shades in this case are the result of helping iron and/or carbon molecules find their way through the fine, microcrystalline structure of the agate bands and they penetrate through the entire stone.
The lapidary craft is just as impressive. Each stone is polished to a mirror finish and looks every bit the gemstone it is! These are a bit large for jewelry but they could undoubtedly be cut further for cabochons and the like if you were so inclined. I appreciate them for the fabulous banded agates they are and love how every one is so completely unique. Every stone shows at least some fine fortification banding and some of them are completely dominated by it in absolutely wild and mesmerizing patterns!
The typical stone averages from just under 1 1/2" to a little over 2" wide in size (about the size of a box of chocolates). Each lot weighs at least 1 pound.
Each lot ships free, inquire about savings options with 3 or more lots.
A nice, unique naturally wonderful stone collectible exclusively from Sticks-in-Stones Lapidary.