What is Fire Agate?
Fire agate is a new and exciting type of agate that is part of the particular banded chalcedony family. All agates are examples of microcrystalline quartz formations, and fire agate stands out as one of the wildest things nature has ever conceived, right next to moss agate and crazy lace agate. Gemologists refer to fire agate as mainly a type of brown agate with intricate patterns. Agates are known for concentric bandings that form the bulk of their colored designs.
When you look deep into the crystalline structure of fire agate, you will see not just a mysterious brown pigment but also flashes, swirls, and green, yellow, red, and even orange. The insides of fire agate look like they’re pulled out of a magical fantasy tale, with the fire burning green and orange at the same time. Fire agate is genuinely a sign to behold. The hemispherical facets of fire agate are henceforth known in the gemology world as a botryoidal habit.
Fire agate has long fascinated collectors and gemologists because of how light behaves when it strikes the surface of this gem. The fiery optical effect is due to the inclusions or crystal formations inside each fire agate gem. The light is diffracted, and a widespread iridescent impact is achieved. If you are thinking of where to compare this visual effect of fire agate, think of opal, which is a special mineraloid with water content. Another interesting facet about fire agate is that its brightness or “fire” in jewelry terms is highly similar to the effect that is observed in genuine diamonds when exposed to natural or artificial light.
Fire agate has a variety of luster types depending on the specimen being examined. On the whole, agates will have a waxy luster comparable to glass, but sometimes they will exhibit additional textures and lusters. Some fire agates have an almost dull look to them, especially before polishing and cutting. Fire agates can also have a silky luster, depending on the quality of the sample.
One of the more notable properties of this banded chalcedony is the myriad of visual effects that it can produce in the presence of light. This effect is often compared to the fantastic iridescence of mother of pearl. Mother of pearl is the materials secreted by mussels and oysters to create pearls.
Due to the complexity of the fire agate patterns and the inconsistency in its look, it can be challenging to create mass-produced jewelry from fire agate. It would be challenging to develop a line of jewelry, such as that features just one or two colors. Regardless, if the manufacturer is experienced with taming gems like fire agate, the outcome of the effort is usually worth it. Fire agate jewelry is unique, a statement piece, and can be placed side by side with the best jewelry from other gem families.
How is Fire Agate Formed?
Admittedly, fire agate is not one of the most popular gems. While jewelry enthusiasts and collectors are going gaga over sapphires, emeralds, and rubies, fire agate is not very recognizable within its larger superfamily of banded chalcedony. But no matter, this doesn’t reduce the value of fire agate one bit, because it is one unique stone.
Fire agate is believed to have formed more than twenty million years ago in select areas in the US and Mexico. These areas have undergone many deep-seated changes over millions of years, and around the time that fire agate stones are formed, there was plenty of volcanic activity where they are mined now.
Of course, the continental plates shift constantly, and eventually, the veins fed boiling lava to where fire agate is found were cut off. The fire agate was then left to cool down in the veins of host rocks, waiting to be discovered by miners.
Despite not being widely known, fire agate is used primarily for the production of beautiful agate jewelry. Jewelry stores often abound in the regions where fire agate is mined, and they are all for fire agate, day in and day out. Locally produced gems are going to be less expensive, and the people of Mexico, specifically, thrive on more affordable jewelry mined from their country.
Fire agate registers a seven on the Mohs scale, which is sufficient hardness to scratch and resist common household materials like thick glass and kitchen knives. It is a most resilient gemstone and one that we recommend for daily wear because of its durability and not to mention its unique appearance that cannot be easily found in other minerals or mineraloids.
The chemical structure of fire agate reveals its origins: it has a quartz structure that can be modified by limonite and goethite. These colored inclusions are then enveloped or enclosed by thin layers of microcrystalline quartz (chalcedony). The translucence of these layers allows for the passage of light, which then triggers the iridescent effect.
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Where is Fire Agate Found?
Fire agate is not found in many locales around the world, unlike sapphire or emeralds. Gemologists agree that in terms of rarity, it is even rarer than rubies. In the past 60 years, only a few locales can churn out fire agate in commercial quantities. These locales include Arizona and California. Arizona has many more mines than California combined. There’s the BLM site, Cuesta Mine, San Carlos Apache mine, etc. Take note that not all areas are open to public rockhounding, so if you are planning to seek out fire agate, be sure to check out the area first and confirm if you can come. Some fields are restricted from the public, and people are not allowed to mine anything. In Mexico, fire agate can be found in a few mining locales such as the San Luis Potosi and Aguascalientes. In terms of financial capacity, Arizona brings home the bacon. The state is considered the number one source of commercially viable fire agate.