Agate is one of the most popular BC gemstones and is found throughout the province. Agate is a variety of chalcedony, a cryptocrystalline form of quartz. Translucency, patterns of color, or moss-like inclusions may distinguish this stone from other forms of chalcedony. Agates can show a wide variety of vivid, multiple colors. These are principally the result of traces of oxides of iron, manganese, titanium, chromium, nickel, and other elements. All agates take a wonderful polish and are tough enough for most jewelry uses. Designers often take advantage of the intriguing patterns these stones have to offer to create unique and fascinating pieces.
Agate has a hardness of 6.5-7 and a specific gravity of 2.60-2.64. The color patterns in agates usually take the form of flat or concentric layers or bands. Mossy or dendritic inclusions can sometimes create the impression of vegetation and landscapes. Varieties of this gemstone are described by their color patterns, inclusions, or source. With regular color layers and bright colors, banded agates are one of the most popular. Stones that present plant-like patterns are called moss agates. Those with feather-like patterns are called plume agates. Those with tree-like, branching patterns are called dendritic agates. Some inclusions can create the appearance of whole landscapes, complete with lakes, shorelines, trees, and shrubs, within an agate. Stones that show these “natural pictures” are treasured.
Where To Find Agate
Agates and chalcedony have been found along the northern shoreline of Graham Island, near Masset, and along the southeastern shores of the island in the vicinity of Skidegate. The gravels of the Nechako and Fraser rivers in the vicinity of Prince George contain agate and jasper. Agate ranges from shades of red to honey-brown and black; varieties include moss, iris, turtle-back, dendritic and sagenitic. There are also petrified wood fragments.
The gravels of Hixon and Ahbau Creeks, the Cottonwood River and other streams around Quesnel contain agate and jasper. An attractive jasper-agate occurs along a ridge northeast of Upper Hat Creek village. Agate and petrified wood occur at the Perry Ranch, 5 miles east of Cache Creek village. Jasper and agate occur in the gravels of Tranquille River and along the high cliffs in the general area where the Tranquille River and Watching Creek meet.
Agate nodules and geodes containing amethyst occur in basalt rock near Robbins Creek. Moss agate occurs as nodules in the bluffs on the east side of Highway 97 opposite the south end of Monte Lake. Agate occurs as nodules in the bluffs on the west side of the Douglas Lake road at a point 6.9 miles south of the junction with Highway 97 west. Gravel bars along the Fraser River from Hope to Lytton yield jade (nephrite), agate, jasper, garnet, and rhodonite. Agate nodules occur on a bluff which faces Okanagan Lake at a locality just north of the old ferry landing at Westbank.