agate (ăgˈĭt) [key], translucent, cryptocrystalline variety of quartz and a subvariety of chalcedony. Agates are identical in chemical structure to jasper, flint, chert, petrified wood, and tiger's-eye, and are often found in association with opal. The colorful, banded rocks are used as a semiprecious gemstone and in the manufacture of grinding equipment. An agate's banding forms as silica from solution is slowly deposited into cavities and veins in older rock. The stones can be artificially stained to produce combinations of color more vivid than those found in the natural state. The cutting and staining of agates has long been centered at Idar-Oberstein, Germany. Important sources of agate are Brazil, Uruguay, and the United States (Oregon, Washington, and around Lake Superior). The moss agate or mocha stone contains visible impurities in the form of dendritic shapes that resemble moss. See onyx.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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