Nebraska State Stone
Agate is a layered, multicolored variety of chalcedony. Chalcedony is a catchall term that includes gemstones with microscopic crystal structures that are composed of quartz, many also containing the mineral mogánite. When these gemstones are concentrically banded, they are called agates. Because agates occur in an infinite number of colors and patterns, no two are alike. Agate is composed of silicon and oxygen, with iron and aluminum oxides sometimes present.
Agate forms in rounded nodules or veins. Often, centuries of water have washed the outer surface away to reveal the pattern inside. When this is not the case, the crust must be cut open to view the stone’s inner beauty. Tiny quartz crystals called drusy often form inside the stone, especially in agates with hollow cavities. Since unpolished specimens of agate are dull, they are normally polished to bring out their full beauty.
Agate has hundreds of variety names, and new ones are introduced every year. Some of the more common varieties are fire, blue, blue lace, Mexican crazy-lace, Greek, Botswana, banded, carnelian, Lake Superior, thunder egg, rainbow, and turritella agates. Prairie agate is a variety that usually does not have agate’s signature bands but is nonetheless colorful.
A STATE SYMBOL
On March 1, 1967, Nebraska’s 100th anniversary, the state legislature designated prairie agate the state stone. In the United States, agate is abundant in the prairie, especially in Nebraska’s Oglala National Grassland.
Agate was designated the state gemstone of Louisiana in 1976. It is also one of Montana’s two state gemstones; the other is the world famous Yogo sapphire.
The name of this mineral comes from the site where it was originally reported, the Achates River, or Αχάτης in Greek, which is now known as the Dirillo River in Sicily, Italy. The Greek naturalist and philosopher Theophrastus discovered agates sometime between the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. Agates were widely used in the ancient world.
FORMATION AND OCCURRENCE
Agates are normally associated with volcanic lava rocks, and are also found in some metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Silica-rich water percolates through the rock, escaping as gas and depositing traces of the silica in the rock’s crevices. Layers are formed and eventually the rounded nodules called agates result. Agates found in Nebraska were originally formed in Wyoming and South Dakota. They were then carried to Nebraska by streams.
Agates are widespread, occurring in most areas of the world. In addition to the site where the mineral was first reported in Sicily, major agate locations include Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Morocco, Poland, the United States, and additional regions of Italy. The important gem region of Idar-Oberstein, in the Hunsrück Mountains in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, got its start as a source for agate thousands of years ago. Prairie agate is found only in the United States, in Colorado, South Dakota, and Nebraska.
Early humans made weapons and tools from many varieties of chalcedony including agate, agatized coral, jasper, and petrified wood. Because of their abundance, durability, and beauty, types of chalcedony were among the earliest raw materials used by humans. The earliest recorded use was for projectile points, knives, tools, and containers such as cups and bowls. Agate, along with petrified wood, was then elevated from functional use to gem status, being used for decorative and religious purposes.
From antiquity through the Renaissance period, collecting bowls made of agate was a popular hobby, especially among royalty. In fact, this hobby is what led to the growth of the gemstone industry in the Idar-Oberstein district of Germany, one of the world’s leading centers for gemstone cutting and trading. The town is still known for some of the world’s finest agate carving.
Because the material is suitable for cutting and takes a good polish, agate is chiefly made into stones and used for ornamental purposes, such as in brooches and pins, pendants and charms, beads, mosaics, and dream catchers. Agate is one of the most varied and most popular gemstones. It also has industrial applications, including letter openers, inkstands, mortars, and pestles.
Agate has been believed for centuries to protect the wearer or holder of the stone from a wide variety of dangers and to bring good fortune. Because it has been known and used by humans for millennia, the supposed benefits of agate are innumerable and cross into many cultures.
Agate is the mystical birthstone for September and the birthstone for the zodiac sign of Gemini. Agate is given for the 12th and 14th wedding anniversaries.
Chemical Formula: SiO2
|Author: World Trade Press|