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What is Agate?
Where to Hunt Agate
A Waxy Luster
Banding
Hardness and Weight
Conchoidal Fractures 
Pitted Surface

 

What is an agate?

Agates are semiprecious stones that can be found all across the globe but commonly found along the shorelines of Lake Superior. Under a trained eye, one can easily find agates within the area of northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin. These precious gems compose of several mineral quartz and layers of chalcedony. Formed billion years ago, the bubbles rising from volcanic activity formed the famous banding layers of agates.

Most people can easily spot the familiar banding color of orange and yellow. However, the unpolished agate is far more difficult to find in a sea of bedrocks. Noting the weight and size of a rock can give hints if it’s an agate or not. Nonetheless, identifying agates like a pro is something anyone can learn to do.

 

 

Where to Hunt Agate

Some billion years ago, agates formed along the shores of Lake Superior. It’s really best to hunt where these semiprecious stones started off. From its formation glaciers, currents, and rivers carried agates across the North and South America.

The best place to start hunting for agate is where the soil has been moved or in the shorelines, riverbanks, and riverbeds. Currents constantly give these parts fresh supply of stones from the bottom of the lake. Gravel pits along the shores of Lake Superior are perfect for hunting agates. However, most gravel pits are privately owned so traverse carefully and with caution. It’s not worth getting yourself in a lot of trouble for a handful of these semiprecious gems.

 

Once you decided on a good spot, here are some helpful tips to help you identify agate better:

 

Waxy Luster and Translucency

Agates that are freshly throne in the shorelines by the current may have some waxy luster or shine on its surface.  Feel the stone on your hand and try to find some waxiness on it. Slide your fingers on its weathered surface or where the rock exterior has worn out. Waxiness is one of the sure sign you may have found an agate.

Even though agates have banded minerals, there are few agate stones that have translucent property. Look for translucency in the stone; you may even spit some quartz-like mineral along with the familiar orange, red, and brown color. When held up to sunlight, unpolished agates may appear to ‘glow’ as of the sun refracts through them. Because of this technique, it’s best to hunt them in the early morning or when the sun is about to set.  

 

Look for the Banding

Careful inspect stoned for banding which is a factor that many collectors and jewelry designers sought for. Check in the exterior of the stone where it is broken or worn away. Most agates have weathered surfaces that may reveal their particular banding.

 

Check Hardness and Weight

Agate stones are no more than 3 inches in diameter and heavier than ordinary stones because of their dense composition. Another tip from expert agate hunters is to compare them with stones lying close by. As a type of quartz, agate is quite hard that cannot be easily scratched even when using a steel knife.  

 

Check for Conchoidal Fractures

Agates as a quartz mineral tend to break due to its brittleness. Check for conchoidal fractures or irregular break in the suspected agate. These fractures may look like a break similar to fine-grained materials like glass and obsidian. Fractures in agates may appear in a wavelike pattern or often curved.

 

Get Hints from the Pitted Surface

Agates oftentimes form in igneous rock or have been surrounded by softer rock. These softer rocks may have eroded leaving from pitted or dent marks on the semiprecious stones. The pitted surface on agate may also cause by softer minerals formed into the agates.

Remember, finding an unpolished agate is nothing compare to the ones bought in stores. Meticulously inspect each stone and in time, your eye can easily identify a perfect unpolished agate.  And when you go out to do so, make sure to keep warm along those Lake Superior Shores with a Michigan Home Grown hoodie to show off your Michigan pride.