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Stone Marbles


Agates also came from Germany, where large agate millsand quarries could be found on the Nahe River at Oberstein. The smaller pieces of stone were put to good use by being made into marbles by skilled craftsmen, mainly for export to the American market. Workmen chipped the pieces nearly round with a hammer, then wore down the edges on the surface of a large grindstone. Production of marbles reached a peak between 1880 and 1890, when marbles were being ground in Idar-Oberstein and in Bundenbacj, a small town in the same area. Marbles were also quite popular in Africa at this time, a great portion being exported there.

Marbles produced in the greatest volume, and most important to the trade, were made of banded agate. However, the grinders in this region also produced marbles of rose quartz, tigereye, and other semiprecious stones. Marbles were used to decorate large hat pins, and merchants called marbles "klickers."

Agate marbles are still produced today in Idar-Oberstein. The agates come in many different colors, but most can be distinguished by the bands of different colors which circle the marbles. The bands usually alternate red and white or brown and white, although there is almost an infinite variety of shades which can be found. Bands may increase in width as they near the ends of the marble to form a white spot surrounded by a red band, which gives the marble the appearance of an eyeball.

Some agate marbles show a long narrow elliptical pattern, pointed at both ends, instead of a band, giving the marble the appearance of having a drawn-out toothy grin. Some bands are less well-defined, making the marbles more translucent. A good way to tell if a marble without distint markings is agate or imitation is to hold it up to the light. Most of the glass imitation agates are opaque. Also, the red and white markings on imitation agates aren't in regular bands, but irregular shaped swirls. Gray agate marbles also exist, but usually contain bands of white or lighter gray.

You may encounter a marble which appears to be agate but is some color which no espectable agate would be found in, as green. Agate is one of the semiprecious stones which can be colored either by dyeing or by heating, the finished product lovely looking with the green color penetrating through the entire marble. This green coloring actually replaces the natural color previously present. These marbles then have light green and dark green alternating bands, and as translucent as before.

Agate belongs to a type of quartz called cryptocrystalline, consisting of microscopic crystals. Regular quartz has large crystals. One big section of this group of quartz, known as chalcedony, contains agate, used for making marbles Agate has a banded or irregular, variegated appearance. Oxny is an agate with even parallel layers of black and white or brown and white; sardonyx of carnelian (red) and white.

Song: "Aladdin"