The terms, chalcedony and agate, in practice, are often used interchangeably…the latter simply being the result of successive depositions of the former.
Blue chalcedony is composed of compact masses of tiny quartz crystals and the size of these crystals can vary, as can the amount of spacing between crystals. As a result, properties such as hardness, and reaction to light and coloring agents can and usually will differ in various specimens or within portions of the same specimen. This is particularly true of blue agate…the layers of which can, and usually do vary, in color, texture and transparency. Due to impurities, there are often brown, gray, white or colorless layers interspersed with and modifying the color of the blue layers. This is why proper selection of rough and savvy cutting is so essential to the creation of a fine gem.
It is perhaps worth mentioning here that while there are many similarities between samples from various sources, there are also distinctive, characteristic, differences. I personally feel very strongly about the need to disclose the origin of these stones in the course of commercial transactions. All sources have produced beautiful gems. Some varieties, such as the Ellensburg Blue, (found sparsely scattered in vast alluvial gravels) are valued as much for their rarity as for their beauty. A premium is paid for fine gems from this source and that is as it should be. However every source of gems is finite. And every beautiful stone regardless of origin is a thing to be treasured.
Ellensburg Blue Agate began to draw attention circa 1930, thus beginning the search for this elusive gem that continues today.
What makes it unique and much sought after? The answers to this question can be summed up in several words. Scarcity, color range, variety, hardness and adaptability to a variety of settings.
The scarcity of the stone is such that finding even the smallest of pieces is considered a good day’s find. Most all of the land where “Ellensburg Blue” is found is private and inaccessible.
The color of the Ellensburg Blue Agate ranges from a light sky blue through a cornflower blue to an almost purple royal blue. Clouds, streaks, or bands may occur in the agate and graduates from nearly opaque to transparent.
“Ellensburg Blue” will test out at from 7.5 to 8.3 or harder on the scale. Because of its singular qualities and limited quantity, the Ellensburg Blue Agate has been re-classified by many gemologists to be a precious gem.
According to Melody in -Love is in the Earth-, Ellensburg Blue agates can enhance ones stature, eliminate negative self-talk, and bring happiness through understanding. It is believed to help one to appreciate one’s abilities, characterisitics, and situations. It is said to be good for the throat chakra, it helps communication, speech, teaching, insight through “talking it out”, etc.
Blues have a calming and soothing energy, and I would recommend that you buy an even B or C grade Blue and hold it in your hand as you meditate, and carry it in a pocket during the day.
Many people find that holding a blue in their hand during meditation; calms the constant mental chatter. This means it helps you reach deeper levels of meditation more quickly than you would expect.
Some History thanks to www.historylink.org: In March 1905, Austin Mires, an attorney who served as Ellensburg’s first mayor, extracts bright blue agates from the agate beds around
Ellensburg and sends them to Seattle to be set into rings.
Agate beds abound in the Teanaway basalt layers throughout the Kittitas region. Teanaway Basalt is the reddish-colored basalt dating from the Eocene epoch (50 million years ago) of geologic history. In the Ellensburg agate fields it is mixed with the darker brown Columbia Plateau basalt from the more recent Miocene epoch (24 million years ago).
The Ellensburg formation dates from the Miocene epoch, and is largely composed of easily eroded rock and rock debris. This “biscuit” topography, combined with the movement over time of the Yakima River and its tributary creeks, encouraged the formation of geodes and agates.
Although the agate beds between Thorp and Ellensburg yield a variety of agates, it is the brightly colored “Ellensburg Blue” agates for which the beds are famous. These agates are unique to this region.
John Prentiss Thomson, whose father’s jewelry store first promoted the stones, reported that local Native American tribes eschewed the agates for use in arrow tips, although they used them in trade with whites. Local sheepherders at the turn of the nineteenth century reported the sky blue rocks prominently visible in the hillsides.
About a decade after Austin Mires had Ellensburg Blue agates set as jewelry, he and his wife began to cut and polish the stones in their home.
By May 1913, local native people had shown jeweler J. N. O. Thomson where to find the agates. Local news stories spurred an agate-hunting fad among tourists, which continued through the 1940s.
Virtually all of the original blue agate beds are now (2003) part of private land. Many of the beds are cultivated, making agate hunting nearly impossible. Farmers occasionally turn up the stones while plowing.
Sources: John Prentiss Thomson, Ellensburg Blue (Ellensburg, WA: Kittitas County Historical Society, 1961).
Caveat Emptor ~ let the buyer beware
Ellensburg Blue is often unidentifiable by even the trained eye, so know and trust the source… Regrettably due to it’s beauty, popularity, value and scarcity, the amount of “fake” Ellensburg Blue agate being sold on auction sites has reached an epidemic proportion. (Don’t get burned!)
I have recently seen blue agate worth just a few bucks, sold as E-blue for hundreds! ~ Regrettably, as they say, “there is one born every minute”. Don’t let this be you -
Be weary if:
- Beware of terms such as “old stock”, “estate” and “Ellensburg Style” as these terms frequently accompany fake or mislabeled E-blues.
- Tumbled and cabbed stones are particularly difficult to authenticate
- If the price is too good to be true – It’s probably not a blue!\
- Money back guarantee IF you can prove it’s not real
Ways to protect yourself:
- Ask the seller for a written note of authenticity
- Review the sellers “buy” history as far back as you can – Look for anything suspicious
- Ask for a 150% money back guarantee ~ If the seller is sure it’s genuine E-blue, they will have no problem with this
- Wait to post feedback “after” you have had your purchase authenticated – Blueagates.com will soon be posting a select number of Ellensburg Blue agate jewelers (experts on E-blue) where you can mail your blue to be authenticated at a very nominal charge.
Note: While there are many reputable sellers of gems and minerals; unfortunately, there are a few scoundrels that warrant the need for this message.