The Lake Superior agate differs from other agates found around the world in its rich red, orange, and yellow coloring. This color scheme is caused by the oxidation of iron. Iron leached from rocks provided the pigment that gives the gemstone its beautiful array of color. The concentration of iron and the amount of oxidation determine the color within or between an agate's bands.
The gemstone comes in various sizes. The gas pockets in which the agates formed were primarily small, about the size of a pea. A few Lake Superior agates weigh more than 20 pounds, about the size of a bowling ball. Such giant agates are extremely rare, but no doubt others are yet to be discovered.
The most common type of Lake Superior agate is the fortification agate with its eye-catching banding patterns. Each band, when traced around an exposed pattern or "face," connects with itself like the walls of a fort, hence the name fortification agate.
A common subtype of the fortification agate is the parallel-banded, onyx-fortification or water-level agate. Perfectly straight, parallel bands occur over all or part of these stones. The straight bands were produced by puddles of quartz-rich solutions that crystallized inside the gas pocket under very low fluid pressure. The parallel nature of the bands also indicates the agate's position inside the lava flow.
Probably the most popular Lake Superior agate is also one of the rarest. The highly treasured eye agate has perfectly round bands or "eyes" dotting the surface of the stone.
Occasionally, collectors find a gemstone with an almost perfectly smooth natural surface. These rare agates are believed to have spent a long time tumbling back and forth in the waves along some long-vanished, wave-battered rocky beach. They are called, appropriately enough, "waterwashed" agates.
Finally, the rarest Lake Superior agate is the one that recurs in a collector's dreams but is discovered in reality perhaps once in a lifetime. On average only one out of every 10,000 agates fits this description. They are the ones weighing 2 pounds or more and having perfect shape, color, and banding quality. They are the ones called "all-timers."
Above is written by Scott F. Wolter and Reprinted with the author's permission. His books "The Lake Superior Agate - Third Edition" & "The Lake Superior Agate - One Man's Journey" are must own books for anyone who hunts, collects or simply appreciates Lake Superior agates.
Purchase books here: