Fire Agate

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Fire Agate

Postby helstark » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:56 am

I tried to do a forum search on the topic of Fire Agates, and all I found was Iris Agate, so thought I'd start one.

I ran across some photos of fire agates that floored me... they are irridescent, like opals, in all different rainbow colors, but do not crack or have any instability. The colors in the bubbles (from photos anyway), are just as astonishing as opals, and in some cases even more beautiful and colorful. There are a bunch in the gem section of the Auction if anyone hasn't seen them before.

After looking and looking and looking at photos of them, I bought a lot of the rough from an old indian that gets them off the indian only mines in the Az reservation. He said there should be lots of fire inside the layers, because the area they came from produced extremely firey (bubbly) gems. I can't resist hidden treasure, even if I don't know how to get at it... :shock: .

I found a website that described how difficult they were to cut to get the right shape out of the bubbles, and that the bubble colors could be as thin as 1/6 mm, and it is very easy to just distroy the color totally by not being careful cutting. Anyone familiar with this stone and how best to cut/polish it?

I think my biggest question is... all the chunks have these gorgeous swirly white blobs all over the top. It's scary to think about just cutting that away in the hopes of finding glowing bubbles underneath it, since the swirly white blobs themselves are so beautiful and unique. Is there a better way to find the colors without ruining the white, or do you HAVE to cut away the white to expose possible colors?
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby Rockranger » Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:49 pm

Pretty aren't they! There should be something posted here somewhere? Cant remember under what?
Helen you want to work fire agate around the bubbles if possible and as close as you can without removing the color. A lot of time the white is removed. To me, It doesnt look better unless you have the nice black to brown body tone against the colorfull bubbles.
Someone should be able to explain it better then I do :)
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby PinkDiamond » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:23 pm

Searching for Mexican Fire Agate pulls up a few threads on them, and these look like the main two, so hopefully there's something in them that can help you:

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1467&p=12205&hilit=Mexican+fire+agate#p12205

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=2343&p=21601&hilit=Mexican+fire+agate#p21601

With any luck our cutters who have experience cutting them will come by and have some answers for you. :wink:
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby GemAddicts » Tue Jan 03, 2012 3:44 am

Definitely NOT easy to cut and polish, lol.

Here's a few I've done or are working on.

Working on(pics are under-saturated for some reason, lol, way brighter):
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Done:
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Micrographs(not great sorry, just quickie snapshots):
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Rough:
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http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitaldev ... 425552359/
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby PinkDiamond » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:38 am

Gorgeous Jamey! :D
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby GemAddicts » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:46 am

Thanks Pink.
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby helstark » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:21 am

Wow! Jamey, those are GORGEOUS!!! :shock:
I have a few questions if you don't mind :D .

How long would you say one piece takes to carve (what's the 'typical' size)? How much of an average sized rock contains the fire bubbles? Is there a lot of waste per rough usually? I have noticed that roughs are usually really big (15-30 gms)... but the finished stones are usually really small (under 10 carats). Does that mean you typically expect to grind away 90% of each rough to get only a tiny little bubble piece? Are you doing your rough shaping, then using a tumbler to polish and finish, or are you doing them like opals, hand shaping, then hand polishing?

I know fire agates are much harder than opals... do you wear down your tools faster? Go through 2x, 4x, ? , polishing compounds compared to opals? I read in one of the articles that one fire agate could burn through several diamond bits just to shape... :shock: . How has your experience been with that?

If you accidentally cut through a bubble... what happens? I keep reading that it 'ruins' the whole stone. Why? Does the color for that whole layer get destroyed? Wouldn't you just get a hole in the bubble, and the surrounding color is intact?

When dealing with roughs, what % of them produce fire? Is it possible that you can have a gorgeous rough that has no fire at all, and you grind through the entire rock from top to bottom to find absolutely no fire, even though it has exactly the same type of brain-like top chalcedony layer? Or are you pretty certain that if that brain-like chalcedony top exists, there will be fire in that rock? I read that you can grind at the corners to tell... does cutting into a color layer vertically damage the entire layer?

If you have a nice section of color, and a big blank area, then another large section of color, with a very short color layer between them, can you just cut through it vertically to produce 2 stones, or would that damage color in the 2 parts of large color too?

Thanks in advance, I know I'll have more questions coming up:P.

Pink, thanks for posting those thread links! What a lot of fantastic info and help. There was way more info on the threads than I found just googling, and I spent the last few hours reading each one.

I bought the fire agates with the idea that I would take them to the Gem and Mineral Club to use for cabbing. Then it occurred to me that if no one there has cut these types of agate before, that we could accidentally ruin a really nice layer. So hopefully, I'll be a bit better prepared as to what to expect when I go next week:).
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby gingerkid » Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:54 am

8) pitter patter!! those are droolsome, jamey!!

hel, there are some links within the 2nd link that pink posted on the 1st and 2nd page that have a lot of information on cutting and polishing fire agate that are worth reading.

dave gibson, an opal forum member, has information on his website on cutting the material, but, try not to get distracted from reading while drooling over his fire agate pictures. :P

http://www.mexicanamber.org.uk/agate.php
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby helstark » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:42 pm

:lol: Hi Ginger:). I KNOW!!! The pix I have seen have all made me drool... these and opals have me all obsessed!

I read ALL the info you guys linked in the other posts that Pink referenced. The questions I posted to Jamey (and anyone else familiar with cutting this stuff) are questions that are not answered in all the info I read. I read Mr Hughes entire 'book', as well as the other references. VERY insightful, but the specific questions I had were not answered completely, for example, in the case of 'do they all have fire?", the reading materials seem to indicate that they do... yet at the same time it's not clear because suggesting that you cut down carefully to find color would seem to indicate that some stones don't have any color... so do they all have color??

Anyway, I'm really really looking forward to absorbing info on these too. I'm worse than a bird... shiny objects, yum!!
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby GemAddicts » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:23 am

The "fire" is simply just a micro thin layer between the white chalcedony cap and the brown agate layers. Unless trimmed, can be lots of waste, lol.

No way to give a time as every single one is different. I also seldom carve them. Jen usually needs ring stones so just dome cab them very close to layer. But carving takes longer. Time is always more than any other materials, because you need to cut, look, cut, look, etc. Regardless if cabbing or carving. Creates lots of extra time. Cabbing them is more challenging imho though because much more difficult to get that fire to jump out. But typically goes a bit quicker than carving. Carving them is also more fun imho.

The fire is a then film of metal oxides. Grinding into it ruins it big time typically. The film will flake/break up typically.

Percentage, that all depends on locale of material. If material was sorted. If mine run, which means any real good stuff has been high graded and removed from it. Etc. Mexican material produces color in like 3.5/5 pieces, but mainly just copper with some green. Slaughter Mountain and Deer Creek, and others not all produces but still 50/50 maybe 60/40, but has good colors not just copper. Some Cali material that is maybe 1/4 produce fire, but they produce all kinds of goodies from Sagenite replacement to fortifications to bullseyes, all of which are your top patterns. Top colors are blues and purples. Brainy patterns are great too.

The chalcedony cap on top the brown layer of agate means nothing other then the possibility it is there. Use a strong
Very strong, flashlight and wet them to look for colors. I use a trim saw to get close to brownish agate layer. Then use the flashlight and wet technique.
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby gingerkid » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:07 pm

wondering if the layers of color seen in iridescent andradite are similar to it in fire agate??
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby helstark » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:34 pm

Thanks for the info Jamey!!

I got them I got them!!! OMG... they are amazing!!! And BIG!! What a contrast with my awful bought rough opals!!! Every single piece appears to have bubbles, can see them from the sides already or directly through the top! So it shouldn't be hard to find the layers at all:). These came from the San Carlos Apache Reservation, but not Slaughter Mountain. He said these were dug a long time ago, from an area that hasn't been dug in years, but was known for the best fire around with the deepest colors and layers... I can SEE it!!! And they are CLEAN, no extra rocks or dirt, just swirly agate material and bubbles!!

I'm sooo thrilled and excited!!!!! I'll post pix once I get my desk cleared off to take pix on!!
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby helstark » Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:19 am

Ok, I'm going to post some pix. Maybe you guys can offer some suggestions also about what I should do with them? Every single rock is a specimen. That is, without cutting a bit of it off, it's beautiful. These pix were taken dry because they dry off super fast, but when they were wet, you could see irridescent colors through most of the pieces. Also, I took the photos under a table lamp, but I tried to correct the color a bit to skintone. Problem is, I couldn't get photos of any of the bright flashes.

On some, you can see entire rainbows from the top (see pix), those only need polishing I think. The ones with the white blobs are gorgeous by themselves. They all show lots of bubbles, but the bright color flashes only show up where there's a teeny hole in the middle, or from the edges. And the visible colors are all different. The littlest one has ruby red fire in it, when you roll it around, like an opal, it flashes from a point in the side. Some of the white parts look like white stone roses. Others look like irridescent dragon scales. Still others are blood red (the 'white' part isn't white).

I don't really want to cut these and ruin them, so I'm not sure what to do. I know there's some incredible fire under some of them. Every piece has fire bubbles, you can see them, but not all of them are multicolor rainbows, some only look like they may only be 1 or 2 colors (like the red and green flashed ones).

When I bought them, the seller said they were the best of the best, not seen in decades, from a place only indians are allowed to go on the Arizona reservation ... but after my recent not very positive opal buying experiences, I was a bit skeptical. I haven't seen any fire agates in person before, but every single piece is pretty incredible, or maybe I only think that because I haven't seen any before? I thought I'd just try to polish the ones that were all bubbly, colorful and don't look like they need cutting (like the rainbow rosey one below)... what do you guys think?

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Re: Fire Agate

Postby PinkDiamond » Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:35 am

Wow! I've never seen rough fire agates before, and am amazed at what I'm seeing. Wish I could see them up close, and I can't wait to see what you do with them. I'm positively green with envy!! :mrgreen:
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Re: Fire Agate

Postby helstark » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:14 am

Thanks Pink:)!! I hope more of the pros weigh in on this... info is always appreciated!

Each stone is so uniquely beautiful, I looked and looked and played with them for hours...and could not find my least favorite to practice on. If they are like regular agates in density, maybe I'll practice on some regular agates first:).
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