Agate Created / Simulated Gem
Found all over the world, agate has been creatively striped by nature. It is a type of chalcedony quartz that forms in concentric layers of colors and textures. Each individual agate forms by filling a cavity in a host rock. As a result, agate often is found as a round nodule with concentric bands like the rings of a tree trunk. Tiny quartz crystals called druzy (sometimes spelled as drusy) often form within the stone, adding to its beauty and uniqueness. Agate is a hard stone, within the range of 7.0-9.0 on the Mohs Scale.
In 1497, the mining of agate in the Nahe River valley in Germany gave rise to the cutting center of Idar-Oberstein. When the Nahe agate deposit was exhausted in the nineteenth century, Idar cutters started to develop the agate deposits of Brazil, discovering Brazil's rich deposits of many other gemstones. A famous collection of two to four thousand agate bowls, accumulated by Mithradates, King of Pontus, shows the popularity of agate at the time. Agate bowls were also popular in the Byzantine Empire. Collecting agate bowls became common among European royalty during the Renaissance and many museums in Europe, including the Louvre, have spectacular examples.
Although the small town of Idar-Oberstein is still known for the finest agate carving in the world, today Idar imports a huge range of other gem materials from around the world for cutting and carving in Germany. Cameo master carvers, modern lapidary artists and rough dealers flourish there, exporting their latest gem creations. It is an entire industry that grew from the desire for agate products during the Renaissance.
Agate was highly valued as a talisman or amulet in ancient times. It was said to quench thirst and protect from fevers. Persian magicians used agate to divert storms. Today, some believe that agate is a powerful emotional healer and helps people discern the truth.
How are created or simulated gemstones different from natural gemstones? Natural gemstones are created by the forces of nature and must be discovered, usually by digging in the ground or sifting through a riverbed. Most of these natural gemstones can also be created in a laboratory; they are called created or simulated gemstones. They can be physically—in mineral and chemical contents—identical to their naturally occurring counterparts.
The purpose of creating gemstones in a laboratory isn’t necessarily to reduce the costs, but rather to produce larger, more perfectly formed stones. Because even lab-created diamonds can be very expensive, there are some diamond alternatives on the market that are commonly used to give jewelry the look of authentic diamonds, but which are much less costly. Cubic zirconia and Signity Star® are examples of lab-created gemstones that, to the unaided eye, look identical to natural diamonds.