Snakeskin agate is a unique variety of agate known for its bumpy formations resembling a snake's skin. It is a type of chalcedony, a microcrystalline variety of quartz. Snakeskin agate typically has a brown, white, or gray color palette, with the "scales" being created by inclusions of other minerals such as iron oxide or manganese oxide.
Oregon holds a significant place in the story of this gemstone, with deposits primarily found near Rome and Prineville exhibiting unique characteristics. It is a popular stone for use in jewelry and other decorative items, and is also believed to have metaphysical properties such as protection, grounding, and healing.
The defining feature is its bumpy and scale-like surface, reminiscent of a snake's skin. This texture, called "botryoidal," comes from the uneven growth of agate crystals.
|Snakeskin Agate, Rome, Malheur County, Oregon
Specimen and photo: Rolf Luetcke
Properties of Snakeskin Agate
Composition: Primarily silicon dioxide (SiO₂), but may also contain trace amounts of other minerals like iron oxide, manganese oxide, and nickel oxide. These contribute to the stone's color variations.
Color: Typically found in shades of brown, beige, and white, resembling a snake's skin. However, it can also occur in other colors like red, green, and yellow due to the presence of different minerals.
Luster: Vitreous to waxy, meaning it has a glassy to greasy shine depending on the polish and presence of inclusions.
Crystal System: Trigonal, indicating the underlying crystal structure of the agate.
Streak: White, regardless of the stone's overall color. This refers to the powder left behind when the mineral is scratched.
Hardness: 6.5 - 7 on the Mohs scale, making it moderately hard and suitable for jewelry and other decorative uses.
Cleavage: None, meaning it does not break along specific planes like some other minerals.
Crystal Form: Microcrystalline, meaning it is composed of tiny crystals that are not visible to the naked eye.
Density: 2.6 - 2.7 g/cm³, slightly denser than water.
Transparency: The gemstone ranges from translucent to opaque, depending on the density and distribution of inclusions within the structure. Meaning it allows some light to pass through in thin slices but appears mostly solid in thicker pieces.
Fracture: Conchoidal, meaning it breaks with smooth, curved surfaces like broken glass.
Specific Gravity: 2.6 - 2.7, consistent with its density.
Solubility: Insoluble in water and most acids, making it durable for long-term wear and display.
Magnetism: Non-magnetic, not affected by magnets.
Fluorescence: None, does not glow under ultraviolet light.
Refractive Index: 1.53 - 1.54, a measure of how light bends as it passes through the stone.
Inclusions: May include botryoidal formations (grape-like clusters), dendritic inclusions (branching patterns), and other minerals that add to its unique appearance and visual interest.
|Snakeskin Agate, Rome, Malheur County, Oregon
Photo: Rockhunter Handels UG
Is Snakeskin Agate Really Agate
Yes, Snakeskin Agate is indeed a true agate! It falls under the category of chalcedony, which is a microcrystalline variety of quartz. Agate, in turn, is a specific type of chalcedony characterized by its banded or layered appearance. While not all agates exhibit bands, Snakeskin Agate's unique texture and composition classify it as a distinct type of agate.
Where is Oregon Snakeskin Agate Found
Both Oregon Snakeskin Agate deposits formed within cavities of volcanic rocks, primarily basalts, millions of years ago. Silica-rich hydrothermal fluids seeped into these cavities, gradually depositing chalcedony and other minerals. Variations in temperature, pressure, and mineral composition during this process contributed to the distinctive textures and colors observed in Oregon Snakeskin Agate.
Rome, Malheur County
Location: Primarily found near the town of Rome, Malheur County.
Appearance: Generally exhibits a wider range of sizes and colors compared to Prineville specimens. Colors typically include brown, gray, and green, with potential for red, yellow, or black accents. Texture often displays well-defined botryoidal formations, replicating snake skin with remarkable accuracy.
Prineville, Crook County
Location: Primarily found near the city of Prineville, Crook County.
Appearance: Tends to be lighter in color compared to Rome varieties, often showcasing shades of beige, cream, and pale green. Additionally, some specimens may contain intriguing internal cavities filled with other minerals. Texture can still resemble snake skin, but may be less pronounced than Rome specimens.
|Lustrous translucent Snakeskin Agate From west of Rome, Malheur County, Oregon
The value of Oregon's Snakeskin Agate depends on various factors like size, quality, color variations, and the presence of unique features like internal cavities. Generally, it falls within a more affordable range compared to other precious gemstones.
What is Snakeskin Agate Used for
The captivating aesthetics and unique properties of snakeskin agate make it a versatile material for various applications:
Jewelry: The most common use for Snakeskin Agate is in jewelry making. Its unique texture and earthy tones are popular for creating rings, earrings, pendants, bracelets, and other adornments. The stone polishes well and can be set in various metals, offering a diverse range of styles.
Carvings and Sculptures: Skilled artisans utilize Snakeskin Agate to create intricate carvings, sculptures, and figurines. The stone's natural variations and patterns lend themselves well to artistic expression, resulting in unique and visually appealing pieces.
Decorative Objects: The natural beauty of Snakeskin Agate shines in decorative objects like bowls, coasters, paperweights, and even figurines. These items add a touch of natural elegance and conversation-starting uniqueness to any space.
Collectibles: Some individuals value Snakeskin Agate for its rarity and unique appearance, collecting polished stones or rough specimens for their personal enjoyment or investment potential.
|Rough Snakeskin Agate
In metaphysical beliefs, gemstones like Snakeskin Agate are often thought to possess certain properties or energies that can be beneficial for individuals who work with them. However, it's important to note that these beliefs are not scientifically proven and should be taken with a level of skepticism. Here are some commonly attributed metaphysical properties associated with Snakeskin Agate:
Transformation and Rebirth: Similar to a snake shedding its skin, the stone is said to symbolize personal growth, shedding negative patterns, and embracing new beginnings.
Renewal and Growth: It's believed to encourage positive change, adaptation, and spiritual evolution.
Strength and Perseverance: Associated with the powerful image of a snake, it's thought to channel these qualities, aiding individuals in navigating challenging times and overcoming obstacles.
Protection and Grounding: The stone's resemblance to a snake's protective scales translates to its symbolic meaning of protection and grounding. It's believed to shield against negativity and harmful energies, fostering feelings of security and stability.
It's important to be aware that some materials might be mislabeled as "Snakeskin Agate" when they are not genuine agate. These could be dyed or treated stones, or even other materials like fossilized fish scales resembling snake skin.
Snakeskin Agate, with its distinctive texture, diverse color palette, and volcanic origins, offers a captivating glimpse into the Earth's geological history and artistic potential. Its physical properties and applications make it a valuable material for various purposes, while its perceived metaphysical properties hold significance for some individuals.