Beginners Guide To Agates

If you thought rocks are nothing more than lifeless nuggets of gravel, then you haven’t really met agates. While the quiet, even boring, demeanor of this gemstone belies the enthralling tales it tells over the course of eons, this seemingly mild-mannered mineral weaves captivating stories of a violent yet exciting history that’s captured in stone.

Agate are a semiprecious stone that comes in a variety of distinguishing assortments. They are formed with volcanic and metamorphic rocks. Though usually thought to be the finished products people wear as jewelry or seen as impressive decor, agates by strict definition are multicolored, variegated rock formations primarily made of chalcedony and quartz varieties.

A Gift that Keeps on Giving

This semiprecious stone is actually relatively common in occurrence, even if that doesn’t mean you can also find them everywhere. Agate are found in igneous or sedimentary rocks, lakes, certain beaches, places where the road or earth has been cut or dug out, even random areas where gravel is exposed. 

But don’t let that seeming ubiquity fool you. Agate are highly desired for their unique ring patterns, exquisite colors, and the unique way they behave under specific circumstances. Once processed and polished, they take on quite a transformation. 


Though the planet seems lush with these banded chalcedony gem materials, that doesn’t diminish their value, and in fact can be considered a little agate memento from Mother Nature, with the stories we know from their components, especially when you start enjoying their unique traits and personalities. Or if you’re among the many believers, its multitude of healing powers.

But Wait, There’s More

While that would have been more than enough, it doesn’t stop there at all, because, under certain conditions, different types of agate display different types of special characteristics. An example is how iris agate or rainbow agate look beautiful on their own but take on an additionally magical turn with iridescent colors when light is shone on them.

Where Agate is Found

Agates were primarily formed within volcanic and metamorphic rocks, and their use dates all the way back to Ancient Greece.

If you’ve ever seen any of them and thought they looked beautiful, wait until you discover how agate came to be.

Available and In Demand

By their fundamental nature of being formed from the Earth, agate is found all over the world. All around Europe from Germany to Southwestern Sicily, Latin America, North America, all around Asia, and just about every hemisphere. In the U.S., agate are predominantly produced in western states with Montana, Washington, and Idaho being among the chief sources, collected all across the country.

How Agate Forms

Imagine something that takes tens of millions of years to form, and you’ll begin to appreciate how agate have witnessed and even experienced the formation and history of the Earth itself. It goes something like this.

The Agate Story

During geological upheavals over the course of millions of years, when volcanoes, magma, and lava get up and moving, the heat, pressure, and flow causes a stir among the various elements in the surroundings. 

Bubbles to Cavities

In the case of the agate, during these eruptions and lava flows, as they cool, steam and gases form bubbles. Some of these bubbles rise and pop, while others are frozen in time, so to speak, particularly those bubbles overtaken by the cooling and resulting solidification. 

The bubbles remain inside the stone, effectively becoming rock cavities in them. Perhaps similar to the kind on an unfortunate person’s tooth, but better compared to the bubbles you find in Swiss cheese.


Over time— and that means a lot of time— myriad things happen within the walls of the cavities or elements entering from the cracks and crevices of agate deposits.

These include chemical transformations or the infusion of foreign material like water with silica mixed in, for example, penetrating into the cavity to form a kind of silica gel, from which other components mix together— such as various soluble materials mixing with the iron oxides within to form various minerals and layers of iron hydroxide, forming in their own peculiar way based on the blended components.

Banding and Color Patterns

Eventually (and that still means even longer time), the mass hardens as they dry, then slowly turns into microcrystalline quartz crystals. The undisturbed layers of colors that formed become a big part of each stone’s distinctive agate varieties.


Some form color banding while other agate come out with concentric layers, like the bands of the ring agate or eye agate, while yet others form granulating patterns or filaments and feather like patterns as well as moss like inclusions such as in the case of moss agate.


In each are their own sub-peculiarities, such as how, in some stones, the bands appear as straight lines in cross-section with bands parallel to the walls cut into thin slabs, while others have white banding patterns alternating with bands of brown, black, and/or red, as in the case of onyx, while others have the milky luster of dendritic agates such as the fire agate, botswana agate, or blue lace agate.

They’re as variegated in personality as the colors they produce, each with its own story to tell.

Healing Properties of Agates

The healing properties proffered to agates are as extensive as the tonic concoctions of the sleazy salesmen of old times. However, agate come from deep within the earth, formed in the course of millions of years. 

As such, while there is hardly any definitive scientific proof or study beyond their physical properties (one is “Studies on Agate” from Terra Publications which discusses scientific techniques used to examine agate over decades), no one will argue its claim over the possibilities of agate harnessing the energies of the Earth and its transference and transformative powers.

In this there is plenty. Agate run the gamut of health and healing considerations from physical ailments all the way to deeper, spiritual, or emotional concerns. Depending on your need or inclination, there is likely an agate that is believed to be able to help, ameliorate or outright heal.

Agate Uses

Agates and their variety of chalcedony have been adopted in a wide assortment of usage, from the secular to the metaphysical. For instance, the way agate aids in mental function isn’t just for a headache but used to remain calm and focused, to improve concentration, to expand one’s thinking powers, to enhance eloquence: the gift of communication.

  • Agate Distance Healing. Agate create an energy bridge between giver and recipient
  • Agate Enhances Communication Abilities. Whether in language, prose, or eloquence.
  • Agate Stimulates the Digestive System.
  • Agate Cleanses the Aura
  • Agate Eliminates Negativity
  • Agate Promotes Good Energy
  • Agate Enhances Mental Function
  • Agate Soothes and Calms
  • Agate Ameliorates Tension and Pressure
  • Agate Heals Inner Anger
  • Agate Balances Energy
  • Agate Balance Chakra
  • Agate Helps Prioritizing One’s Life

Agate Examples

There are many agates for just about any chalcedony fashion, illness, or persuasion. There are agate cabochons for jewelry, agate for decor, and agate crystals for healing. 

And why not, agate are as old as history and are veritable beauties to behold.


Each agate is multifaceted as they are multi-textured. These chalcedony and quartz wonders deserve their own entire sections and articles (in fact, some have entire books and a mineralogical magazine or two devoted to them).

While we cannot exhaust all types of agate in this list, below are a few examples that form a good basis for a glimpse into what they are and what people expect of them.

Banded Agate

Also known as “Layered Agate” and “Earth Rainbow Agate,” banded agate displays thin, alternating layers or bands of colors and intricate designs that usually come in brown, gold, and white, opaque variety.

Gentle Energy

These are minerals thought to have a gentle energy that works in a quiet, soft application and is believed to be a healing stone that brings, calm, organization, balance, stabilization, good fortune, and wealth to their bearer. 

Moss Agate

Named after something that it doesn’t actually contain, moss agate is a kind of chalcedony formed from weathered volcanic rocks and silicon dioxide. 

Because it doesn’t have concentric banding, it may not fit the usual description of agate, but is still in demand as a gemstone that is charming, that displays minerals in the form of green filaments in a clear or milky white field with dendritic patterns embedded within that looks like moss captured inside the stone.

Dendritic Agate

Known as the Stone of Plenitude because it is believed to attract abundance, wealth, and fullness in the different areas of one’s life, dendritic agate is ideal for those who want to get in touch with their spiritual side.

This agate is characterized by inclusions of dendrites that look like branches, that are milky in body tone but can also appear opaque as well as translucent.

Blue Lace Agate

An exquisite emotional healing stone that is connected to the heart chakra, and harmonizes body, spirit, and soul, blue lace agate, like sodalite, is said to be a stone of communication; a great choice to deal with emotional disturbance, heal anxiety, reduce stress, and instill a good sense of security and safety.

Blue Beauty

A type of chalcedony as well as quartz with a vitreous, glassy luster favorite for being blue, it is named for its light blue banded layers as well as traces of white and brown. It is among the harder types of agate, named for the site of its discovery in the Achates (now Dirillo) River of southwest Sicily.

A Final Word on Agate Stones

Seldom does one find the rare item that fulfills the package of being in relative abundance, having diverse traits and personalities while looking beautiful, as agates.

In fact, there’s more, because the agate has an abundance of functions that range from natural use all the way to the spiritual and metaphysical. 

Best of all, their economy. Agate look gorgeous enough to warrant a thousandfold more in value, yet are relatively affordable that one can’t help but make sure that the next time they come to behold these stones, they thank their lucky stars for such a gift in their trifecta of beauty, variety, and low cost.

Find out more about Moss Agate here.