Saturday, June 20, 2009

Alphabet agates

In May 2007, the original wrote about the sale of a collection of alphabet agates:

These agates, from the island of Java, are colored by deposits of iron oxide. Gem-cutters of incredible skill make a few preliminary cuts to try and determine the nature of the reddish-brown ribbons. This is difficult, because the agate is totally opaque, so any cut will be based on an educated guess at best. From there, they cut the stone into a cabochon (oval or spheroidal shape) and, if the gem-cutter is lucky, the ribbon of colored agate will behave as predicted, and a pretty shape will reveal itself. Letters appear to be the most popular cabochon pattern, and the most common letter agates are the simple cross shapes, like X and T. R is allegedly the most difficult to find. According to this website, which is selling a complete set of alphabet agates for over eleven thousasand USD, there are only eight known complete sets in the world.

I have a hunch that the only reason these collections are so rare and expensive is that the production is done in rural Indonesia with a technique that is steeped in tradition and mystery. I say that there must be some way to x-ray the agate prior to cutting into it, so that we may fully map out where the coloration is. Then, we can run some program to identify where a desired pattern will appear with a certain level of accuracy. This would probably be a lot easier if we didn't restrict the final output to the convex cabochon shape.

If that works (which it might!) it would led to a whole field of custom agates, in shapes far more complex than letters of the alphabet. I know exactly what I would want...

No comments:

Post a Comment