Sunday, February 19, 2012

Looking for Agates

You can always spot an avid agate hunter among any group of beach walkers.  Those who have come to enjoy the ambiance look out at the water or up at the sky as they stroll along that sandy, rocky skirt at the water's edge.  The agate hunter walks slowly into the sunlight, cap brim pulled down to soften the glare, eyes scanning back and forth among the rocks.

These glossy, waxy stones are swept along by oceans and rivers, tumbled over and over before waves carry them high onto the shore and leave them behind.  It's been quite a journey.  Those two agates pictured above are actually a micro crystalline variety of silica formed inside lava flows billions of years ago.

Most agate hunters don't particularly care about the scientific properties of these little gems.  We simply want to find one, and then another, feeling their waxy "softness" with our fingertips before slipping them into a waiting pocket.

Sooner or later the looking becomes addictive.  Even when walking in a beautiful place on a perfect day ... the head drifts down and experienced eyes once again begin to scan the rocky path stretching out ahead.

At the end of the day, pockets are emptied and contents spill onto the table.

This pile of shiny stones is our reward for missing the gulls lazily drifting on the breeze; kingfishers staying underwater until it seems their lungs would burst; sunlight coloring the edge of the beach like a luminous highlighter.

After years of looking, it is still a thrill to spot one tucked away, just waiting to be found.  Since most agates are small, sooner or later the avid hunters talk about the "big ones" they found on this beach or that one.  My prize finds are pictured below with a few of the more normal-sized ones.

And what do we do with them all?  We put them in jars.  It starts by filling a single clear glass jar or vase with these shiny stones.  Soon another jar is filled and then another one.  Defying logic, all agates found must be kept ... until containers full of them accumulate, lining window sills and serving as bookends.

Some people believe agates have metaphysical properties including protection, strength, and harmony.  Others, like me, believe they're simply fun to find.

Where is your favorite place to look for these shiny treasures?


  1. It's kinda like doing the Sanibel Stoop. Sanibel Island is in Florida, Gulf Of Mexico. You are hunched over in your bathing suit and flip flops in 80 degree weather, looking for the most amazing seashells.I have them on my fireplace.

  2. yes, totally addictive, we have a beach here that sometimes washes up beach glass from a local glass blower.

  3. Our beaches down here in Santa Cruz are not especially rocky; I never heard of anyone rock-hunting on them. Hunting for sand dollars is more the thing here, though I usually end up giving them away. One can hunt for beach glass, but only on the more remote beaches. It is pretty stuff, though.

  4. Colection of anything from the sea is always fun, stones though not fragile weigh more then sand dollars but it all comes down to what your piece of heaven offers. It is the journey getting there that counts.

  5. Lovely. They would be hard to resist. As much as I like whole shells, I have a thing for interesting fragments. I'm sure I'd have lots of small, tumbled stones in my pockets.

  6. These are lovely! I've never found any in all my beachcombing, perhaps I meed to look harder or perhaps there aren't so many of them in the UK?