This month I have several customer agate finds to entertain your rockhoundedness. Although the picture does not do the agate justice, a frequent visitor to the Grand Marais area found this bizarre agate that has amethyst bands as well as brecciated agate sections. He also found a fairly large carnelian agate – but the photo of this specimen did not turn out. Sviatoslav Kozakov is from Warren, MI. They make several trips back and forth all summer long to look for agates. His daughter, Zorian, who is two years old, is also a junior rockhound. One of the very first words she spoke was “agate.”
The next series of agates were shown to me last weekend while I was in the Paradise/Whitefish Point area. First is Becki Cornish, who lives in the Paradise, MI area. She first brought in this lacey amethyst agate to the Whitefish Township Library while I was giving my agate lecture.
Then, when I was at the Shipwreck Museum, she brought in this beautiful Lake Superior agate that also has an amethyst section.
With Becki on that Friday, was her rockhounding friend, Sheryl Wegmann. Sheryl spends time in the Paradise area in the summer, but is from Corpus Christy, Texas. She found two incredible agates, both with a yellow cast which is typical of many of the agates found at the eastern end of Lake Superior.
Finally, another agate I saw at the library was brought in by Joan Snyder. At first glance, the agate looks like sandstone. But upon closer examination, especially after we applied water, the beautiful banding was exposed. My guess is that this is an agate that formed in a sedimentary rock pocket. What a beautiful specimen!
The cool windy weather has tested agate hunters during the past month. There have been a few good days, though, and a few great agates found locally.
The first one to be featured this month is a different looking brecciated agate found by Larry Feist of Grand Rapids, MI. A breccia is a fragmental rock whose components are angular, which compares to a conglomerate that has water worn rounded pebbles. This brecciated rock seems to include fragments of amethyst and chrysoprase, as well as some banded sections.
While attending the Moose Lake Agate Days show, I also was shown this very large brecciated agate. Notice how the matrix in which the fragments are cemented is completely different than the Feist agate.
Just the other day this ¾ pounder was brought into the museum by Jeff Robbins. It has almost a perfect concentric banded face on top. This treasure was found by Jeff Robbins from Lake City, MI. He found it on the beach near Muskallonge Lake, east of Grand Marais.
While I was at the Muskallonge Show a couple of weeks ago, a woman drove from the museum to Muskallonge to show me the following agate:
I was so busy that I forgot to take a picture with her and the rock, and I forgot to get her name. However, it is such an unusual specimen that I wanted to include it anyway in this month’s update.
One of the other dealers said he thought it was man-made. I don’t agree. I have seen similar agate-looking rocks which are actually accumulations from paint booths. However, those usually include more brilliant colors and those specimens are opaque – all of the bands. Furthermore, those paint-rocks all have solid bands, not any with miniature geode gaps.
This specimen looked a lot different than anything I’ve ever seen. Some of the bands appear to be clear chalcedony. I didn’t take a picture of the top of the specimen, but there was sedimentary matrix showing on the top.
My guess is that this is a seam agate that formed in sedimentary rock in a marine environment, perhaps in the tidal flats.
The person who showed me the rock said she purchased it at an estate sale down state.
Do any of you have any more ideas about the genesis of this specimen?
I received an email a few weeks back from a Michigan Technologic University student, Phillip Schichtel. He is an avid agate hunter who looks on the beaches in the Keweenaw, as well as by his family’s cabin near Muskellunge Lake, located 20 miles east of Grand Marais. I must admit that he has found some dandy agates!
For those of you who wish to display your agates in a similar manner, here are a few tips:
Make sure the glass in the jar is strong enough to adequately support the weight of the rocks. If possible, use glass jars that are made of tempered glass.
To prevent the growth of algae, add a little bleach to the water. For smaller jars, just add a few drops. For larger jars, add up to a capful.
If the jar you are using is fairly wide, rather than take up space in the middle with agates, either use other rocks to fill the middle space, or insert a skinny glass or other jar in the middle, and fill the outer space with your agates.
Change the water in your jar a couple of times per year.
Note that if you display your agate jars on a sunny window sill, the sun can influence agate banding. I have had some people tell me that sunlight improves banding in some agates in a manner similar to heat treating. Others have told me that prolonged exposure to sunlight negatively affected the banding in their agates. In most cases, though, sunlight should not impact agate banding, especially if your agates were found on the beach and have already had prolonged exposure. The greatest risk of keeping your jars on a window ledge is that other people walking by your house will be able to see them. This is especially a problem if you are not in the habit of locking your doors. .I have heard of more than one case wherein someone returned to their unlocked home to find their agate jar missing.
DO NOT fill the jar with baby oil, or other type of oil. A friend of mine did this several years ago and the baby oil penetrated into the agate bands and decreased the quality of the banding.
With our mountains of snow, agate hunting is at least a couple of months away. If I were to guess, unless there is a massive thaw, I don’t think anyone will be rockhounding our beaches until at least late April, if not May.
So again to appease all you agate fans, I have included photos of a couple of lakers I have for sale. The first is a nice sized laker with smoky quartz fill. The outer bands are translucent carnelian. Along the top, there are some terrific candy stripe bands that very likely will exhibit a shadow if polished. The center, which is exposed at one end, shows some exquisite smoky quartz crystals. It weighs a little over 5.5 ounces and is 2.5” x 2.25” x 1.5”.
The other laker is a peeler depicting differential erosion of the various bands. The bottom of the agate is translucent carnelian. The upper half that exhibits the peeler bands is more opaque with paint stone colors of orange, yellow, and tan. Concentric banding pops out at various places, including one whole end of the specimen. It weighs just under 7 ounces and is 2.5” x 2.25” x 1.625”.
If anyone is interested in purchasing either of these Lake Superior agates, the retail cost is $40 each plus $5 s/h and sales tax if applicable. Give me a call at 906-494-2590 or send an email to if you are interested.
I must be honest: there is way too much snow on the beach to agate hunt. However, I know that you rockhounds still want to look at pictures of agates. Thus, I have scanned in a couple of terrific Lake Superior agates for your enjoyment.
The first is one that I purchased while in New Mexico a couple of years ago. I received a call from a friend saying that an acquaintance had a garbage can full of rocks left over from her dad’s rock shop, which used to be located in northern Minnesota. It actually turned out to be nearly a dozen garbage cans – all of which had sat untouched for 20 years. Many of the cans had other non-agate rocks. Even those with agates, had other material. It took me all day to go through those specimens. The agate pictured below is one that I retrieved and purchased. I call it my Champaign Agate because the shadow has bubble-like structure to it. You cannot depict this shadow effect in a digital image, but you can see the ghosted like contrast of the shadow on the right side of the agate in the detailed picture below. The rock shop owner cut, but did not polish this specimen.
The next agate is one that I have for sale. It is an interesting tube agate. The detailed picture shows cross sections of some of the tubes. On the other end of the specimen (not pictured) there are several other tubes clearly visible through the translucent chalcedony. Due to the roundness of this section of the agate, the scan didn’t come out so I can’t include this view (sorry). Although the rest of the banding is not as well defined, the tubes make this an interesting specimen.
A couple of weeks ago I received a series of photos attached to an email from Todd Bird. When he purchased a house in Tawas, MI, this rock was left behind as a door stop. It is approximately 7.5” by 4” and weighs 5 pounds. Most of the specimen is translucent. There is banding throughout, with the most striking being the candy-stripped bands at the end of the specimen. I have examined it by zooming in with Photoshop. The bands definitely look self-organized, although the appearance is much different than that of other agates found in the upper Midwest. It most likely is some type of bizarre tube agate, probably formed within a sedimentary rock seam. The banding pattern reminds me of the sedimentary agate from Thunder Bay, Ontario, but the color and appearance is much different.
If any of you have seen something similar, or if you have any other ideas about the rock’s genesis, please send me an email to .
Agate hunting is soon to be done for the year. I haven’t had time to go out, but a few of my friends have been diehards and have found a few small agates as of late.
The agate finds featured this month include some found by Adam Nothelfer, who is from the Lapeer area of the Lower Peninsula. They are all very unusual, each for its own reason. First of all, there is the agate he found in on his family’s private property in a small lake in far northern Lapeer County, north of the town of North Branch. This lake was once a gravel pit and has produced masses of fossils, Petoskey Stones, and other minerals. This 1 pound 5.5 ounce agate is apparently the first agate to be found in the lake. According to Adam, the pictures DO NOT do this specimen justice. He says that “It is absolutely dreamy to get it wet and look at it under the magnifying glass. It has eyes all over it and areas of banding mostly white but some with red and pink floating in clear chalcedony.” The dimensions are 4.25″ x 3.5″ x 2.5″ — quite large for any agate. It certainly appears different than Lake Superior agates. If I were to guess, I would say that it is an agate that formed within a sedimentary rock pocket.
Apparently Adam usually comes to Grand Marais to agate hunt. This year, he instead headed to the Keweenaw Peninsula and looked for copper replacement agate nodules at the Wolverine Mine. Pictured below are a couple that he pulled out of the basalt piles wherein the agate nodules fractured in half while still in matrix. Adam collected a large plastic coffee can full of nodules and hopes that more have banded agates inside, and maybe, some — with copper bands.
The last agate picture agate sent to me is one of a yellow and white water level banded agate. It looks similar to others I have seen that come from Vermillion Beach. However, he says that he found this 3.5 pounder near Muskellunge Lake, east of Grand Marais around 20 miles.
I have seen several of these, but have not had time to really study them. From what I can see in the emailed picture, it appears to have distinct water level bands that alternate between chert and chalcedony. It appears that this also was formed in a sedimentary rock pocket.
If any of you readers have anything to add about any or all of these unusual agates, please send me an email to .
Although I think spring is the best time to agate hunt given that the recently melted icebergs dump their load of new rocks on the beach, there have been a lot of good finds this fall. I do agree that the fall storm waves mix the rocks and sometimes push new rocks up onto the beach. Other times, though, the waves will undertow the rocks out back into the lake and/or cover them up with sand.
None the less, there are several recent finds featured this month. My friend, Renee Beaver who appeared last month, is featured again with a 1/3 pound candy stripper.
The Weihing family contacted me early this fall about their successful agate hunting trip to Minnesota. Ashley, Kayla, and Courtney show off their finds in the pictures below.
Ron and America Dukowitz emailed me the picture below documenting their recent U.P. agate finds.
And finally, I recently took a few days off to agate hunt in Minnesota with my friend, Tom Tomasek. Pictured below is Tom and his dog Alex, as well as the agates he found on the trip.