Monday, August 16, 2010

A little Lake Superior Agate History lesson

The Lake Superior agate is a type of agate stained by iron and found on the shores of Lake Superior. Its wide distribution and iron-rich bands of color reflect the gemstone's geologic history in Minnesota. In 1969 the Lake Superior agate was designated by the Minnesota Legislature as the official state gemstone.

The Lake Superior agate was selected because the agate reflects many aspects of Minnesota. It was formed during lava eruptions that occurred in Minnesota about a billion years ago. The stone's predominant red color comes from iron, a major Minnesota industrial mineral found extensively throughout the Iron Range region. Finally, the Lake Superior agate can be found in many regions of Minnesota as it was distributed by glacial movement across Minnesota 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Geologic history

More than a billion years ago, the North American continent began to split apart along plate boundaries. Molten magma upwelled into iron-rich lava flows throughout the Midcontinent Rift System, including what is now the Minnesota Iron Range region. These flows are now exposed along the north and south shores of Lake Superior. The tectonic forces that attempted to pull the continent apart, and which left behind the lava flows, also created the Superior trough, a depressed region that became the basin of Lake Superior.

The lava flows formed the conditions for creation of Lake Superior agates. As the lava solidified, water vapor and carbon dioxide trapped within the solidified flows formed a vesicular texture (literally millions of small bubbles). Later, groundwater transported ferric iron, silica, and other dissolved minerals passed through the trapped gas vesicles. These quartz-rich groundwater solutions deposited concentric bands of fine-grained quartz called chalcedony, or embedded agates.

Over the next billion years, erosion exposed a number of the quartz-filled, banded vesicles -- agates -- were freed by running water and chemical disintegration of the lavas, since these vesicles were now harder than the lava rocks that contained them. The vast majority, however, remained lodged in the lava flows until the next major geologic event that changed them and Minnesota.

During the ensuing ice ages a lobe of glacial ice, the Superior lobe, moved into Minnesota through the agate-filled Superior trough. The glacier picked up surface agates and transported them south. Its crushing action and cycle of freezing and thawing at its base also freed many agates from within the lava flows and transported them, too. The advancing glacier acted like an enormous rock tumbler, abrading, fracturing, and rough-polishing the agates


Lake Superior Agate from the Lake Superior region in Northern Minnesota.The Lake Superior agate is noted for its rich red, orange, and yellow coloring. This color scheme is caused by the oxidation of iron. Iron leached from rocks provided the pigment that gives the gemstone its beautiful array of color. The concentration of iron and the amount of oxidation determine the color within or between an agate's bands.

The gemstone comes in various sizes. The gas pockets in which the agates formed were primarily small, about 1 cm in diameter. A few Lake Superior agates have been found that are 22 cm in diameter with a mass exceeding 10 kilograms. Very large agates are extremely rare.

The most common type of Lake Superior agate is the fortification agate with its eye-catching banding patterns. Each band, when traced around an exposed pattern or "face," connects with itself like the walls of a fort, hence the name fortification agate.

A common subtype of the fortification agate is the parallel-banded, onyx-fortification or water-level agate. Perfectly straight, parallel bands occur over all or part of these stones. The straight bands were produced by puddles of quartz-rich solutions that crystallized inside the gas pocket under very low fluid pressure. The parallel nature of the bands also indicates the agate's position inside the lava flow.

Probably the most popular Lake Superior agate is also one of the rarest. The highly treasured eye agate has perfectly round bands or "eyes" dotting the surface of the stone.

Occasionally, collectors find a gemstone with an almost perfectly smooth natural surface. These rare agates are believed to have spent a long time tumbling back and forth in the waves along some long-vanished, wave-battered rocky beach. They are called, appropriately enough, "water-washed" agates

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Well, that's it...I've decided, after toiling over it for many, mnay days, I have decided to offer ad space for Etsy & Artfire sellers right here on my blog. You see, I wanted to come up with a way that folks can advertise, and if nothing else get some added extra backlinks out of the deal, and still be able to afford it. So for 24.00 a year, a person can place a clickable ad, right here on my blog. That's only 2.00 a month!! So for anyone interested, just shoot me an email, or contact me on my facebook page, Superior-Agates. Payments will be processed through paypal, and an invoice will be made for a yearly set fee of $24.00.

A lot of folks have asked me where I get my cabochons from, and let me tell you....she's good, and she's fair priced! Thought I would share that information with you today!


I now am offering rough Lake Superior Agates for tumbling in my shop, so if you like tumbling come check out my new stuff!

Have also recently added a box of small slabs, all Lake Superior material, for the Lapidariast!

And if you have not seen my latest works, you should stop by my shop and take a look around!

I have recently been interviewed by my local Newspaper, and hope that article will be coming out very soon. It was really fun to visit with the reporter, and talk about my craft. The newspaper is sent to thousands in Minnesota, and all over the United States, this should be fun! Will be working on getting a lot more new items in my shop before it comes out!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tricks of the Trade - a Helpful Etsy Guide

So, you have decided to open an Etsy shop? OK, well there are several things you should know before you actually open up shop.

1. Photos - This cannot be stressed enough. Have you ever looked for something online, and when you finally think you've found what you are looking for, the photos are so bad, that you feel you need to see it in person before you buy it? Well, think of your Etsy shop in the same manner. People, just like you and I, want to KNOW what they are getting, before they buy it. Need to take close-ups of your item, or is your item small? Make sure you have the Macros setting turned on for your camera. Angled photos provide another view of your items. Taking good pictures, from what I have learned is a matter of taking the picture at the same exact angle your item is placed in. So, you can turn your camera in different directions to get different angles, BUT, at the same time, your camera needs to be tilted in the same angle as your item is. Lighting is another issue some have in taking pictures. I personally prefer a black background, so my pendants kind of "pop" out at people. The best pictures I have taken, I had a lamp, with no shade on it, sitting about 12 inches from my item, black background, and let the camera decide whether to use a flash or not. Most times it did, and I got some very nice photos!

2. Commitment - Opening an Etsy store is not just listing some items and waiting for customers to find you. It's a constant daily system that you must develop, and be committed to doing on a daily, every day basis. Unfortunately, the web does not take a day off, so if you skip a day, you may be skipped in a google crawl, or not as well seen on the web because of it. If you are not willing to put in the work, you will not reap the benefits, and I don't mean to sound crabby, but it's just as simple as that.

3. Sections - This is important, titling your sections with just the word "sale" or "clearance"...well, it's ok, but, for instance in my shop, My shop name is superioragates, I actually have a section for JUST Lake Superior Agate jewelry, this gives a tie to my shop name. So, HAVE a sale section, by all means...but title it something like "jewelry sale", or "necklace sale", or maybe "scarf sale", tie it to your shop name if and when at all possible.

4. MUST haves - There are several things I consider to be MUST HAVES for marketing online. As I have said before though, I have not yet figured everything out, so if I miss something, I just have not found it yet.
Facebook fanpage
Google buzz
These are all places to post your links, to your shop, and to your items. I do it every day, no matter what.

5. Another thing that is a huge help to helping others promote their shops. If you follow someone on Twitter, and they post a link to something they have made, hit the retweet button, it's a simple thing to do, I know, BUT, did you know the more you tweet and retweet, the more followers you will gain, and faster? People can actually look at how many retweets you have done, and if you have a bunch, they will follow you right away, because they want you to retweet for them as well. (does that make sense???)
This is another tool I use for twitter:
I suggest signing up, to help build your follower base.