How would you like to go on a treasure hunting vacation to find a gem that’s much rarer then diamonds and can be sold for $35 to $500 dollars a carat*?
Then hunting for fire agate may be the trip for you, but you need to be up for a bit work to get at them.
How are Fire Agates Formed
Fire Agate is believed to have formed when hot water saturated with silica and iron oxide fills cavities in country rock and begins to cool.
A type of quartz known as Chalcedony (which is also responsible for other types of agate) along with iron oxide (which gives fire agate its’ brown color) begin to form in very small often semi-transparent layers on the interior surface of the void. As this process continues each of these layers forms with differing amounts of silica and iron in them, these alternating silica and iron oxide layers called Schiller layers are responsible for the brilliant fire in the gem.
Fire agates are not only very rare but also once cut and polished are also extremely beautiful. Their colors run the entire range of the rainbow, with purple and blue being the most sought after. Due to the way the crystals are arraigned inside of fire agate, when polished the light appears to jump around inside of them, this is an effect known as Schiller.
Mining for Fire Agates
Fire agate mining is hard rock mining. This means that the fire agate forms inside of actual stone. So to find this stuff you’re going to need to be prepared to do a bit of labor to get at it.
You’ll be using a chisel and sledge hammer to remove the stone, and you need to be aware of the fact that the fire agate is not as hard as the surrounding rock. Be sure not to get to crazy digging out your waste material, or you’ll just have a lot of shattered fire agate if you inadvertently hit it with your chisel.
Most of the material around your fire agates will be white or light brown colored, the fire agate will be a much darker color as compared to that surrounding material. You may only see a few little nodules of this darker material sticking out, so be on the lookout, and take your time.
If you put a little water, or spit onto the fire agate it will be very easy to differentiate from the surrounding rock. If you do use water don’t get crazy with it or you’ll just have a mess.
Be sure to have a hand broom close by to continually remove the dust and waste from the area that you’re mining. This dust and waste material can easily obscure the fire agate, and the last thing you want to do is run your chisel through the middle of your fire agate, just because you didn’t notice it sitting there.
Take Your Time with Fire Agate Mining
Really slow down once you find a fire agate in the stone, if you’re in a big rush to get it out of the rock, odds are you’ll only get it out as many small pieces rather then a nice big piece. This is really important because the bigger your fire agates are, the more they’re worth, so it pays to take your time.
If you’re not up for hard rock mining or you’re just a little tired and need a break, you can also go comb the tailings pile. It’s not uncommon for people to miss some smaller pieces of fire agate when they’re removing a lot of material. You won’t find the big one doing this, but you may find a nice little piece or two.
Once you’ve got your fire agates, you can greatly increase their value by having them cut and polished. The folks at the mine can point you in the right direction for places to have this done if that’s what you’d like to do.
Where are Fire Agates Found
Currently there’s only one place in the world that allows folks to go on a treasure hunting vacation to get fire agates for themselves…
Opal Hill Mine Palo Verde, CA
*Please understand the fact that although some gems are sold at a price like that, the odds are very much against a person not directly in the mining business ever even seeing a gem of that quality. Treasure hunting vacations are not about getting rich, they are not about the treasure you find in the ground, they are about the treasure you find in searching for the beauty that nature has to offer, and the treasure of enjoying time with family and friends. Enjoy your trip for these things and you will have a treasure hunting vacation of a lifetime.
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