Among the various leisure activities that the Oregon Coast boasts of, the agate hunting is amongst the simplest and most enjoyable. While low on monetary value, agates can be used to create stunning jewelry and decorative pieces. What is an agate and how can you collect some? Read on to find out.
While Agates can form in many varieties of host rock, much of the agate’s we see today have their roots in ancient volcanic lava. Agates are secondary deposits that are housed in hollow cavities known as vesicles.
The formation of hollows and cavities can be traced back to the formation of continents. Layers of molten lava were forced towards the surface of the earth. This lava contained trapped gasses. As the igneous rocks cooled and hardened, the gases escaped through cracks, leaving behind hollows. The empty cavities are gradually filled with fluid rich in suspended or dissolved quartz (silica) and other minerals such as morganite. Super-saturation of silica creates an active crystallization front due to the formation of a gelatin-like consistency. As time progresses, miniature fibrous micro crystals attach themselves to the sides of the seam. The varying mineral impurities form contrasting bands in the agates. A balance between the silica and mineral impurities results in the formation of agates with alternating bands.
Agates are distinguished based on the type of formation or sometimes geographical location.
Bands crystallize into concentric layers similar to the aerial view of a fort.
Agates with enclosed movable bubbles of air.
Agates with fine hair like needles within.
Back and forth movement of agates causes a shadow effect to be formed as the light entering the agates but is not reflected out.
Formed when the majority of the silica gel is drained from the cavity but small droplets of the same crystallize into solid chalcedony.
As the supply of fluid rich in silica depletes, an agate is formed which has a hollow center enclosed in a crystalline outer fill.
Agate Hunting. Where and How?
Along the Oregon Coast are multiple spots just perfect for agate hunting. The Nelscott area in Lincoln City is a stunning and well-documented example of the same. A set of storms eroded a few feet of sand to enable access to pure bedrock. Other wonderful sites include Port Oxford, Yachats, the Ona Beach near Newport, Newport Moolack Beach, Oceanside, Manzanita, Tierra Del Mar and other places north of Pacific City, Rockaway Beach, north of the Cove and the stretch extending between Cannon Beach and Arch Cape which also includes the Arcadia and the Hug Point.
The ideal time to hunt for agates are the winter months, between November and March. During the summer, erosion from beach cliffs causes these semiprecious gems to tumble into oceans. Throughout the season these rocks are polished by wave action and get deposited under layers of sand along shores. The winter storms help remove the top layers revealing the treasure beneath. Be on the lookout for loose gravel atop sand. The ideal time to hunt is when the tide is out-going; this is when the gravel has been freshly agitated and there is a plentiful supply of stones. When the waters have freshly preceded the sun will cause the agates to sparkle making them easier to spot.
There you have it - an all-inclusive guide into the world of agate hunting. No equipment, no real technique. All you need is a fun spirit and some water resistant warm clothing. What are you waiting for?