MINERAL OF THE MONTH: February 2015 – Condor Agate (Argentina)

The condor agate was discovered and named by Luis de los Santos in 1993 in the Andes Patagonia Mountains near San Rafael, in Mendoza Province, Argentina. This agate exhibits vibrantly colorful bands and patterns, and has become a popular stone among collectors and jewelry designers. Close up photos of the condor agate shown above follow.

Luis had collected rocks as a child. This interest was rekindled when he saw a carved stone egg made from rhodochrosite, a local Argentinian mined mineral. On one of Luis ‘s visits to the Catamarca Province, he happened to talk with and old friend of Dr. Franz Mansfeld, a German geologist noted for his expertise regarding the Catamarca rhodochosite deposit. This friend told Luis that the geologist had also seen an agate in the Northern region of Patagonia. Luis went in search of these agates, so he made repeated visits to the area.

Rather than randomly hiking the mountainous region, Luis saw a broken piece of banded agate being used as a doorstop by one of the locals. He finally tracked down the agate deposit in an expansive area consisting of low hills located a considerable distance from the nearest road. The only way to get to the sight was on horse-back. The impressive agates were scattered over the surface of rock outcrops made of volcanic rhyolite and andesite. As it turns out, the agate nodules had naturally formed in hollow pockets within this igneous rock. The specimens spread over the surface had weathered out of the matrix rock. Realizing he had made an important find, Luis collected what he could and headed to the United States to sell the specimens. Theyt sold instantly and have been selling ever since. After several years of collecting, cutting, and polishing, he did not continue the business. However, his former wife, Ana de la Santos, picked up where Luis left off and has intensified the business since 2008. Ana now travels to Argentina twice a year and hires a crew to help her mine. Today, the surface specimens are long since gone, so mining requires digging shallow pits to find the nodules.

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