Theophrastus was the first who mentioned the Agate in his treatise “On Stones.” He also mentioned, that its name derived from the river Achates in Sicily, where this gemstone was probably found for the first time. Pliny supported this opinion, therefore, it has been principally accepted by our ancestors.
Origin & Properties
Agate is a semi-transparent rather than opaque variety of chalcedony, principally famous by its banded structure, that originated, due to the existence of a great abundance of thin colored layers inside it. It is harder that Quartz, therefore is commonly using for jewelry purposes.
History of Agate
The Sumerians were the first, who acknowledged decorative value of gemstones and have applied their primitive skills of stone-cutting to create first Mesopotamian jewelry, such as beads, rings, necklaces, etc., that were discovered during the excavations.
All these jewelries were decorated principally with three gemstones, such as Carnelian, Lapis-Lazuli and Agate. But the most popular gemstone, which observed in almost every necklace was an Agate.
The Sumerians have also used Agate to create their poleaxes. One of these poleaxes, dated between 3000 – 2300 B.C. is stored now in the Museum of Natural history in New York.
Both Teophrastus and Pliny have noticed that the Agate was a gemstone of a high esteem. However, Pliny mentioned that later, Agate was found in several locations, and thus lost its high value. He also listed almost all varieties of Agate, which proves that our predecessors were aware of this gemstone very well.
The agate appeared first in Europe as a gemstone, came here from Constantinople. It was an agate bowl, which have been delivered in Vienna by the crusaders. However, the Arabian trail of appearance of the Agate in Europe is not correct, because the Arabic authors claimed that the first Agates came from India and Africa.
And indeed, Pliny stated that the Agate has been known in India since ancient times. Actually, the first Agates have appeared thanks to decomposition of the trap of the Deccan plateau in India. This process has been lasted for thousands of years.
The first agate mines have been discovered thanks to the European travelers, such as Portuguese Duarte Barbosa and Frenchman Jean Baptiste Tavernier in XVI and XVII centuries respectively, however the rail of Agate is traced in ancient Sanskrit literature, principally in medicinal treatises of Tibet. Also, it is possible to find some mentions in ancient Chines literature. However, the Chinese authors refer to the sources, which claimed that Agate came to China from the western and southern barbarians, more specifically from Indo-Scythians, but it has been delivered in China by the Arabian merchants in the VIII century. Nonetheless, the authors of Chines Encyclopedia claimed that it was imported from Europe and called “foreign agate.”
Magical properties, attributed to Agate
Pliny stated that the Agate is capable to cure wounds, infected by scorpions and spiders. However, subsequent authors have noticed, that Pliny probably meant those scorpions, dwelled in Sicily, who lose their poison.
There are many superstitions with regard to Agate. In Persia, this gemstone was used for disinfection and to prevent hurricanes and storms, as well. Also believed that the Agate of certain color could make invincible of any warrior.
There was also very curious superstition, that Agate could help the divers in their searches of Pearls. According to Physiologus (ancient Greek manuscript), the Agate turned into the direction of supposed Pearls location.