Tree Agate, it’s called. Don’t let the name fool you, though. This precious stone does not grow in trees, although it looks as appetizing as a fresh plum. But one look inside a dendritic agate and the name accounts for itself.
Dendrites are a pattern of branches or ferns imprinted in stone, subtle ramifications implied in the gem’s flesh, inclusions of iron or manganese. Hence, the title.
Agate is another name for a translucent variety of banded Chalcedony, a microcrystalline pertaining to the Quartz family. A banded means the rock is marked by narrow strips of different color.
Seeing how dendritic agate is not banded, it’s not scientifically accurate to call it an agate. Rather, it was adopted by the family and grew its own distant branch on the genealogical tree; a step-sister stone to the agate you’ve heard so much about.
Dendritic Agate- A Tree Stone of Many Branches
No riot of colors here. These stones are colorless. Gray or white, their value depends on the patterns they exhibit. For example, green agates with white dendrites make rare appearances.
This stone needs a handy, skilled lapidary. It can prove tricky to cut because the dendrites happen at various depths in the stone. Unless the cutting is done correctly- which, in this case, means almost intuitively, the gem will not reveal its most compelling patterns.
One famous jeweler in history, the Russian Carl Faberge, succeeded in combining dendritic agate with diamonds and other gems so well that even today, in Russia, the agate keeps its reputation as a stone of prosperity, good health and long years.
The largest deposits of the stone are to be found in India, Madagascar, the USA, Mexico, Brazil, and Kazakhstan.
Agate- The Root of the Tree
Characterized by its fineness of grain and brightness of color, agate generally forms through deposits of silica in the cavities of rocks. It may be any rock, but agate particularly likes to shine in the volcanic and metamorphic type.
The Hebrew word for ‘agate’ is ‘shebo’ which literally translates to ‘to flame, split into tongues’. The Greeks also employed the word, but its etymological source comes from the river in Sicily where the stone was found in abundance as early as 3000 BC.
The humans of Neolithic times were the first to use it in healing amulets, while Babylonians, in their particular flamboyant style, employed the stone for decorative purposes. It was fashioned into beads, goblets, bowls, pins, brooches and figurines. Archaeological diggings unearthed a bountiful agate collection in Sumer, which was dated all the way back to 3500 BC.
The dendritic kind was supposed to ensure a good harvest. It was buried in the fields when the time of sowing came. One catch, though. It had to be secured to the horns of the oxen plowing the fields, or at least attached to the plowman’s arm.
The ancient Greek and the Egyptian civilization of the Nile had other uses for the gem. They valued it for its medicinal attributes, and Africa and the Middle East replicated the idea.
Dendritic agate walked in such circles as the Greek dryads, tree and forest spirits.
Seeing how the Romans had always been swept up by the idea of a panacea out there healing all wounds and treating all illness, it didn’t take long for them to start powdering the stone and mixing it with water as a reputed serpents’ antivenin.
Plinius, a Roman historian, promoted the Persian idea that burning, rather than watering the gem might avert tremendous storms.
To move to more recent times, we find agate as the source of a world-renowned 15th-century stone cutting and polishing industry in Germany.
The Legends of the Stone
Wear the stone, and you’re offered protection from danger, the strength of seven tigers, while your children will never fall off their feet. At least, this is how the legend goes.
The gem’s internal patterns shaped its role as the crystal ball of magic. Divine images of mostly Christian figures, like the Virgin Mary, Jesus, angels, John the Baptist could be guessed within the markings and natural inclusions of the stone.
Agate is a pervasive gemstone in the Bible. By default, that means it’s the carrier of hidden strength and secret meaning. The wearer of an agate jewelry is said to receive the favor of God. He/ she will defeat all earthly obstacles, such as lightning, winds, and high waves. The ancient sailors believed it and wouldn’t sail to unknown sea without their agate amulets of protection. How else could they withstand the tumbling forces of a roaring ocean?
Agate and Dendritic Agate Metaphysical Properties
Agate carries a lower intensity than other gems. It also vibrates to slower frequencies. Still, that doesn’t chip away from its strengthening and stabilizing force. Even the subconscious mind benefits from the presence of the stone. It’s said to induce pleasant dreams and put to sleep even the most extreme insomniac.
Dendritic agate blooms fullness over the wearer’s life and is considered a harbinger of wealth, from agricultural to business endeavors. Another title for it is the Stone of Plentitude.
It promotes patience and encourages perseverance. It fights for peace, an inner and outer feeling of calm and respite.
The Stone That Takes Many Forms
That is the beauty of stones. Sometimes, their transparent surfaces will not separate the inside from out, will belong no less to one than the other. That is the time stones open up like flowers to the viewer.
Call it anatomical voyeurism, but once you look inside an agate and see into the kaleidoscope of tiny quartz crystals, all unique like snowflakes, you won’t be able to take your eyes away.
These crystals have a name. They’re called drusy. Gem artisans often cut away the drusy from the stone and leave them in the hands of jewelers to insert them, independently, into the design of a bracelet or a ring.
Apart from the dendritic kind, other varieties of the gem include:
- Moss agate, mined from the alluvial gravels of the Yellowstone River, Montana.
- Eye agate, found mostly in Botswana.
- Plume agate, resembling the said fruit.