Imagine yourself alive some 2000 years ago and walking down a Roman road. Suddenly you must make way for an ox-drawn cart. Look carefully at the animal and the driver as they pass because there is very likely an amulet on the right horn or the ox and another one on the driver” s upper right arm. If you inquire about these gems, you’ll be told they are moss agates, a type of quartz known for its distinctive dendrite inclusions that often resemble trees and vegetation. According to local lore, this particular form of talismanic gem influences the heavens to grant abundant harvests. That makes moss agate a farmer’s best friend.
Now suppose you walk a little farther and meet a couple of Roman soldiers. Chances are equally good that theyll be wearing quartz amulets, too . This time red or brown in color to give protection against poisonous spiders and snakes as well as to instill courage in battle. Whats more, both farmer and solider alike may be wearing green quartz because it is often recommended by doctors to strengthen eye sight.
Both the patterned and the single-color gems are classified as chalcedony, a cryptocrystalline quartz composed of tiny fibers and grains. Those with patterns caused by deposits of silica and mineral oxides which accumulate over time are generally known as a subspecies called agate. Agates with simple bandings of color are called banded agates. Those with patterns reminiscent of nature scenes and landscapes are called scenic agate. Fire agate boasts iridescent layerings that seem to glow and smolder like embers. Lace agate derives its name from its banded swoops and swirls. Those with inclusions that remind of vegetation are moss agate.
In recent years, the most popular single-colored chalcedony has been a highly translucent slate-blue variety from Namibia. Among patterned chalcedonies, moss, fire, and banded agate remain popular, as much for their unique individual pattern, no two alike, as for their powers.