Report: Amethyst Agate Jewelry from the Carver Agate Field

Amethyst Agate from The Carver Agate Field

I have been asked by many about my company’s name, Texas Amethyst Agate. So what is Texas Amethyst Agate? Amethyst agate is a blended stone, being part agate in combination with amethyst, which is a purple semiprecious stone and the February gemstone. Amethyst, although not geologically rare worldwide, is quite rare as a Texas stone. Combining agate with amethyst is an even more rare Texas stone. Amethyst is not only rare in Texas but is found only occasionally on The Carver Agate Field in West Texas. In fact, many of my long time West Texas rocker friends who have collected in West Texas for many years have never personally found amethyst in Texas. Among those friends, amethyst agate in Texas is virtually unheard of. That is why I named my company after this rare and beautiful purple, banded stone. I have not previously created a piece of jewelry from this rare and beautiful material—until now. To understand ‘why now’ is a long story. Here it goes.

When I was in third grade, I asked my parents for a Sears Craftsman Gem Maker which cost about $36 back then. That was a lot of money then and accordingly I received the gem maker as a Christmas gift that year. I ‘needed’ the gem maker to cut and polish the pretty beach rocks I had been collecting on Maine coast beaches since I was 4 or 5 years old, almost too young to remember. I was self taught on the gem maker and held stones that I was grinding with my fingers rather than dopp sticks and dopping wax, which by the way never seemed to hold. I still grind all my stones handheld without dopp sticks, which may explain why my big hands have such short stubby fingers. But I digress.

I made and sold my jewelry during high school. I was in tenth grade in high school where a dedicated art teacher at my request agreed to teach me the basics of silver soldering and jewelry making, while my friends were in study halls. I think my art teacher was happy to have at least one student who was actually interested in art work. But I again digress. As time in college allowed, I cut and polished a few stones and made a small amount of silver jewelry. Further education, work, life and family took up most of my time but I still pursued cutting and polishing stones, and honing my silver smithing skills, up until the present.

So! As I approach my 72nd birthday this month, I decided to do a special signature piece of jewelry which would really stretch my modest smithing skill level and showcase for the very first time a handmade piece of jewelry featuring amethyst agate from The Carver Agate Field. This particular stone was selected because it has a unique and beautiful natural shape and coloration which set off my artistic juices.

Somehow I wanted this particular piece of amethyst agate to be incorporated into my jewelry and be seen for the first time. Coincidentally, I had just cut this very large stone (for jewelry) which had a very odd shape and coloration on the stone’s rind, and included within the stone a beautiful agate pattern and amethyst crystals. I wanted this stone when set to be 100% natural in shape, color and pattern. And I think I did it!

Then I had to somehow set the stone into a piece of jewelry. Due to the size, shape, and agate pattern of the cut stone, only a pendant would work. I wanted the stone’s point to point straight down. I wanted to use gold rather than silver, as gold and amethyst are a warm and elegant combination, more so than silver, which is my usual medium. I wanted to avoid a heavy perimeter setting style, or one which would involve a bezel. I wanted the stone to be the focus, not the setting. I wanted light to be able to move through the stone without a backing material blocking the light. If the light were blocked, the beauty of the amethyst and the agate would not be seen. I wanted to create a setting of gold (GF) that was simple and elegant, but still provided a mechanical connection with the stone without overwhelming the stone’s beauty.

To make this mechanical connection, I drilled a hole through the stone utilizing a diamond bit. This was a terrifying part of this project because of the high probability that the cut and polished stone might crack or break while being drilled. I drilled in water to keep the stone cool and minimize the damage possibilities. It worked! I then took 14/20 gold fill 14 gauge round wire which I hand hammered flat, then filed, shaped and polished (partially). To make the mechanical connection sought, I then bent the golden strip to be simple, elegant and functional as it passed through the hole in the stone.

For strength and reliability, I made one design concession that I did not want to make. I utilized a molecular connector in the area where the gold passed through the stone’s hole. This was primarily to stabilize the drilled hole and add strength to the mechanical connection. I think of this as the ‘belt and suspenders’: either one will work but both together are even better. Yes, I am a ‘belt and suspenders’ guy! But again, I digress.

After setting the stone, there were hours of handwork polishing the gold, using more than 5 types of sanding material involving more than 13 individual steps, until all visible scratches were gone. I then power buffed with a high tech polishing rouge; then soap, water, and a toothbrush were used to thoroughly clean and remove any unwanted polishing material. Lastly, I am matching the pendant with an 18 inch gold fill snake chain.

More about the cutting of the Amethyst Agate Pendant

The amethyst agate pendant was made from a cross-cut slab from a Carver geode/nodule which happened to have an odd wedge-like shape. The geode’s shape was formed in and by a gas bubble which formed in liquid, or semi-liquid lava. After a bubble forms in semi-liquid lava, its shape can be changed (and in this case, was changed) as the lava flows down gradient.

Rock #430

The gas bubble which began fairly spherical in shape (photo 430 above) is often flattish on the bottom and is sometimes stretched and/or bulged as the lava continues to flow down gradient. The stretching made the up gradient side of the bubble narrow (thin) and the down gradient side bulge and become larger and thicker (photos 1178 and 1611 below).

Rock #1178

Rock #1611

That is exactly what happened with the nodule/geode from which the amethyst agate was cut. The point of the pendant as now seen was the up gradient end of the gas bubble and the blue agate opposite end was the down gradient side of the stretched bubble. The ‘pointy’ end of the pendant contains amethyst, agate, and tiny amethyst crystals which formed in the geode center. Of the thousands of geodes and nodules I have cut from The Carver, this is the first and only amethyst agate geode I have encountered with this wedge-like shape, amethyst agate interior, and of suitable (small enough) size and pattern for inclusion in a piece of jewelry. This is the main reason why I have not previously shown a piece of amethyst agate jewelry on this website. The pendant has the natural shape and intact polished rind of the original geode which I cut.

How the signature Amethyst Agate Pendant was created

First: The rough geode/nodule was cut in an oil lubricated 16 inch automatic feed diamond saw. I chose to cut the stone to retain the wedge shape. Had I cut in the opposite direction, the stone would have had no wedge shape and probably would have been discarded—and no pendant would exist. I took the slab from the saw, and then utilized the Cabking grinder 8 inch wheels to carefully hand grind both flat sides of the stone to remove saw marks and visible scratches. I also lightly ground the rind, or edges of the stone, to preserve their identity and the original shape of the stone. I started with 80 grit then moved to 220, then 280, and then 600 grit resin wheels. The 80 and 220 grits were metal diamond grit.

Second: I moved from the Cabking 600 grit to the Bullwheel 12 inch belt grinder with interchangeable 12 inch belts running from 80 grit up to 600 grit, with several increments within that range. I started with a very well used 220 grit belt which was very comparable to the 600 grit that I was using last on the Cabking. I moved from the 220 grit to the 320 grit Bullwheel, and then on to the 600 grit Bullwheel. Since I was using very well used 320 and 600 grit belts, I believe that by the time I was finished with the 600 grit, I was actually closer to what you would get from a 900 grit belt if it were brand new. I then moved back to the Cabking to the 1200 grit wheel, and then on to the 3000 grit ‘polishing’ wheel. While this provided a very satisfactory polish, I wanted to do even better and moved on to a flat canvas disc on the Cabking. That canvas disc was impregnated with a 14000 grit diamond paste with an extender for lubrication. I moved from the 14000 grit back to a Cabking 6 inch 50000 grit water cooled wheel to finish the stone.

Now the stone was completely ready for setting.

See the video below which accompanies this report to view the equipment mentioned above and to obtain more information on the gold smithing that was utilized to set the stone.