Agates have fascinated man for thousands of years and are now one of the worlds most popular gemstones. Perhaps part of this fascination lies in the fact that no two agate nodules are ever exactly alike. The range of their colours, patterns and shape are almost endless and yet all have thought to have been formed by the one natural process. This variety is true of no other gemstone however rare or exclusive it is.
Beautiful agates are found all over the world including Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, the United States, Australia, Germany, Mexico, Russia and various countries in Africa. In comparison to these localities the agate bearing rocks in Scotland are very small but the Scottish agates, although fewer in number, are often second to none in their colour, pattern and beauty.
There is a tremendous thrill in finding a large and complete agate nodule but much of the pleasure then comes when, at a later date, the agate is cut in the diamond saw. Then its true beauty can be appreciated. Scotland, for its size, has a great number of localities where agate nodules can be found. From each of these localities the agates are all subtly different even where these localities are a mere one or two kilometres apart. It is perhaps this great variety within Scotland that makes collecting agates from this country so fascinating.
Agates have been collected in Scotland since prehistoric times. Native agates material have been found in a Neolithic cairn near Cairnhill, Monquhitter in Aberdeenshire and some small scraper tools have been found in a middle stone-age occupation site at Morton in Fife, these have been dated at some 7000-9000 years old. More recently a native agate “charm stone” was found in a farm field at Newstead, Roxburghshire that possibly dates back to the Roman occupation of Scotland.
During the nineteenth century the term “Scotch Pebble” was first used. This term was used in Scotland because at that time agate nodules were readily available on many Scottish beaches as pebbles in the shingle. This term is, of course, misleading but perhaps relate to a time when they were more readily available, nowadays agates can still be found in the shingle but are becoming a rare find on some of the original well known beaches. As well as on beaches agates can be found in ploughed fields, cliffs and quarries in Scotland. Some of the localities can be transitory such as quarries only open and producing agates for a short period of time.
One of the greatest Scottish agate collectors was Professor Matthew F. Heddle who amassed a large and impressive agate collection from a variety of localities in Scotland towards the end of the nineteenth century. Most of his collection is now housed in the Museum of Scotland, Chamber Street in Edinburgh and a visit to see his collection is a must for anybody interested in seeing a world quality collection of agates. His collection of agates is magnificent but the ones from one of the must famous Scottish localities surpasses them all. His specimens from the “Blue Hole” of Usan rank alongside the best in the world.
However, in recent years a number of localities have been found that have been producing agates that are as good as, if not of better quality, than those from the “Blue Hole”. This non-commercial website is therefore dedicated to the beauty and variety of agates found in recent times in Scotland from all the major localities. Most of the agates featured have been personally collected and cut by the author and form the nucleus of one of the biggest collections of Scottish agates in a private collection.
David G. Anderson, Girvan, Ayrshire, Scotland November 2010
All Images Copyright of David G. Anderson