About Fire Agates and Where to Prospect for Them
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About Fire Agates and Where to Prospect for Them

Where to prospect for fire agates in the southwestern United States. And about the gemstone fire agate and which colors are the most desirable.

Fire agates are gemstones that have colorful iridescent patterns that reflected in light resemble flames or hot embers. They differ to agates which are usually banded or spotted. What also makes them attractive and desirable are their colors. Red is the most desirable and rarest of colors. Blue, green and purple are also valuable with brown being the least sought after. The most desirable stones can be rarer than diamonds.

Fire agates were born from volcanic eruptions and the subsequent lava flows, which left cavities to be filled with iron oxide, silica and invariably water. This eventually crystallized and formed quartz, which became fire agates. Jasper is also formed in this way, although its appearance is opaque. 

This fire agates pendant shows an amazing depth of color. 

The most popular cut for an agate is cabochon. This is because fire agates are difficult to cut and must be skillfully grinded back in thin layers in order to obtain the most attractive finish. Jewelry makers often make pendants, rings and necklaces from the gemstone, but large pieces are also made into ornaments.


An agate ring stands out from other gemstone rings.

What also makes fire agates unique is that they are only found in the south western USA and northern Mexico. Unlike agates which are found in many parts of the world and were known and adored by ancient civilizations such as the Romans and Greeks, fire agates are a relatively new gemstone. They were discovered in the 1950’s, but their success as commercially sold gemstones didn’t take off until the late 1960’s. Today they can be worth from 35$-500$ per carat depending on quality and color.

A fire agate cufflink with eye catching blue's and green's.

Where can I prospect for them?  The place to prospect for fire agates in the USA is Maricopa County, Arizona. There are a number of mines in the area, but only one that is open to the public. The Opel Hill Mine is located off Wiley Well road near interstate ten. The nearest town is Palo Verde. This mine is very different from other public mines which are often organized, have facilities and support small industries. On the contrary the Opel Hill Mine is more of a claim than a mine. It is how one imagines gemstone prospecting was in its glory days and how it should be.

Opal Hill fire agate mine in the Mojava Dessert.

You will need to take your own tools such as hammer, chisel, wire brush and gloves. You will also need buckets to carry the stones. If you prefer not to dig there are also piles of tailing to sift through that other prospectors have excavated. A good tip when digging for fire agates is to look under rocks that are covered in white calcite. Because the mine is located miles from the nearest town you will also need to take food, drink and any other supplies. People are also allowed to camp for free on the mine site.

For more information visit:  www.desertusa.com/magjan98/stories/opal.html

Photo's from photobucket.com.

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Comments (4)

A very pretty stone I love it!

My dad was an "agate picking rockhound." Moss agates are found in our area. Very interesting article.

About Fire Agates and Where to Prospect for Them is a very interesting article about a very beautiful gemstone crystal. I've wanted one of these since I first found out about them. Good job Peter!

Sounds like I need to head for Arizona! Great article.