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Banded Agate

I have a customer who asked for banded agate beads. I’m not a bead
person so was looking thru a catalogue and saw that botswana agate
had a banded pattern, could this be it? I’d also like to find a
source for well priced 10mm chalcedony beads(those are for me).
Thanks, Betty (In Bryn Mawr, PA where it’s still summer for one more day)

Botswana agate is an excellent closely banded agate. The multiple
greys are the most common, and have been used since Victorian days
for their banded addition to, especially, brooches, pendants, and
lavaliers. If you look really hard, you can sometimes find the
pink/salmon color botswana as beads - but not very often.

Jim Small
Small Wonders

Banded agate is not the same as botswana agate. Most banded agate is
dyed to the color desired. Botswana agate is usually gray and white.
However if you reflect on the fact that botswana agate is an agate
with banding, then you might be able to sell it to your customer.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Betty, Check for a Show put on by a local Rock and Mineral Club in the
Philadelphia area. Usually there will be dealers there who carry
beads. Lapidary beads are quite plentiful and you will find more than
just the Botswana banded.

Here in the California area, commercial shows are now trying to do to
Bead Societies what they have done to rock and mineral club shows,
crowd them out and charge higher prices. So look for a club show first,
then commercial.

Of course there is always Tucson or Quartzsite. Teresa

I have a customer who asked for banded agate beads.  I'm not a bead
person so was looking thru a catalogue and saw that botswana agate
had a banded pattern, could this be it? 

Hi Betty,

There are many, many kinds of banded agate beads and botswana is one
of them. To be safe with your customer, ask what color banded agate
she wants. Botswana is usually grey and white, sometimes with pink,
but there are lots of other possibilities. It might help to get a
couple of catalogs to show her as well. Rio Grande sells a lot of
stone beads, but check the bead section of Lapidary Journal for even
more bead dealers, especially the annual bead issue (October 2000).
If you’re not familiar with Lapidary Journal, you can get more info on
their website:


Whoa Daniel! ! You infer that "Botswana is an agate with banding"
whereas Botswana Agate OFTEN has banding, but not always. Botswana
Agate comes in a full array of types. I have a two pound hunk of it
that I collected in Botswana which is sagenitic throughout and has no
banding. Furthermore, the majority of Botswana Agate in the field is
not banded…this is the type that the natives use as aggregate in
mixing concrete ! But, getting back to your statement about banded
agate, how is it that an agate with bands is not banded agate ? In my
experience, banded agate is either a type of fortification agate or
one that has horizontal bands. Accentuation of the bands is often
acheived either by dyeing or heat treatment inasmuch as the various
bands have varying degrees of response to treatment. Some layers
actually are immune to any kind of treatment…my guess is that they
are either an amorphous form of chalcedony or are common opal or a
mixture of the two. I know of a local Jasper deposit wherein the ruby
red jasper is permeated with hyaline opal. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos,
CA. P.S. Thanks for reminding me…I think I’ll go fossicking for
beach jasper!

Ron, What exactly is fossicking? I can’t say I have ever heard the use
of the word. As for Botswana agate allow me to clarify by saying that
any agate that comes form Botswana could be called Botswana agate.
However, commercially speaking, I have never been offered a Botswana
agate by any gem dealer that was not banded. I am sure there is
plenty out there that isn’t. However, to me, it would be like someone
coming to me with “red and white banded agate” (dyed of course) that
has no banding. Perhaps then it would be red agate. Or maybe white
agate. Of course that would depend on whether the dye took. My point
here is that semantics are fine, but for the most part we are all
trying to deal in the real world of jewelry here and Botswana agate is
almost always offered as a banded product. However, the next time I
get a call for an unbanded agate from Botswana, I’ll be sure to give
you a call. Daniel R. Spirer, GG Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794
Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 @spirersomes

Daniel, Fossicking is the Australian term for rock-hounding…i.e.
collecting. As for Botswana Agate, I would call your attention to the
awesome peach colored carnelians that frequently occur there and are
sometimes available at designer cabochon venues. As far as I know,
they are available from nowhere else! Another interesting aspect of
the Botswana agate deposit is the existence of a massive white based
tree agate which is EXACTLY like the agate of the same name which has
been extracted from the Deccan traps of India. Indeed, I would
imagine that some of this material has been marketed as Indian while
coming from Botswana. Most of the product from Botswana has been
marketed in the past by Topstones of Capetown, South Africa. As you
well know, when natural gem products enter into the devious channels
of commerce the matter of provenance becomes inconsequential. ( "Thai
"Sapphire from Sri Lanka,“Burma” Ruby from Kenya, “Australian” Opal
from Brazil, “New Zealand” Jade from British Columbia, etc. etc.)
Happy fossicking! Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Concerning Botswana agate, I have noticed that on the ones with pink
centers that the stone is much more prone to chipping and wondered if
that is actually an agate or a form of common opal in the centers.
What do you think?

Rose Alene McArthur

We know it all too well and it is why we refuse to identify origin on
anything we can’t personally track to a source. It is also why we
spend half our time trying to reeducate the customers about their
ridiculous requests for some of this stuff. Of course we have to do
that too when they come in asking for “pigeon’s blood colored ruby”.
The first question out of my mouth to them is “When have you ever seen
pigeon’s blood?”

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Dear Rose, You bring up an interesting question…putting it in
scientific jargon, amygdaloidal silicates can be opal or chalcedony
or both ,or…maybe…, gradations thereof. The gas pockets of lava
are usually filled with silicates (chalcedony or opal ) or zeolites.
Sometimes they are also filled with calcite. The difference between
opal and chalcedony is that opal is amorphous ( without crystalline
structure) and chalcedony is cryptocrystaline In any event, we are
dealing with substances that have unique physical properties. Pink
Botswana Agate often has a tendency to undercut and resist polishing.
I too suspect that pink Botswana is Opal, but…I have also
suspected that it might be a a composite or transitional phase of
Quartz. Ours is not to reason why, but do or die… ergo, who cares?
Peach colored rocks are few and far between ! Ron at Mills Gem, Los
Osos, CA.