WHAT IS YEMENI AGATE?
Yemeni Agate is a prized gemstone known for its captivating beauty and unique qualities. It is a form of chalcedony, displaying mesmerizing patterns and vibrant colors like rich browns, vibrant reds, deep greens, and stunning blues. Originating from Yemen, this translucent stone holds cultural and historical significance in the region, symbolizing beauty, wealth, and spirituality. Highly valued in the jewelry industry and among collectors, Yemeni Agate is cherished for its individuality, with no two stones being identical. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, it is also believed to possess metaphysical properties, promoting balance, protection, and inner harmony. The allure of Yemeni Agate continues to fascinate gemstone enthusiasts and researchers, making it a subject of study and exploration.
The Origin of The Name “AGATE”
The name “Al-Aqeeq” is indeed derived from the term “Aq ul Nakhil,” which translates to “cultivating the fruit of palm trees” in Arabic. This association stems from the similarity between the color of agate and the colors of ripening palm fruits. In their final stages, palm fruits, commonly known as dates, exhibit hues ranging from yellow to red, brown, and black, which can also be found in agate stones. The historian Ibn al-Dubai composed a poem emphasizing this connection, describing the palm tree with its branches resembling pearls and agate, highlighting the resemblance of the stone’s colors to those found in nature.
The gemstone known as “عقیق” (Aqeeq) in Arabic has various transliterations and alternative spellings in English, including “agate,” “aqeeq,” “aqiq,” “akeek,” and “akik.” These different spellings reflect the various ways the word is transliterated from Arabic to English. Despite the slight variations in spelling, they all refer to the same gemstone, which is a type of chalcedony known for its distinct patterns and colors. Each spelling represents different linguistic interpretations or regional preferences, but ultimately refers to the same beautiful and cherished gemstone.
The History of Yemeni Agate as Narrated by Historians
Yemeni Agate quickly gained popularity in Europe. Aristotle (384-322 BC) mentioned in his writings that the finest agate and onyx stones were brought from Yemen. The Book of the Crowns of the Kings of Himyar, authored by Wahb ibn Manbah (655-728 AD), states that Shiddad ibn Umar, from the ancient kingdom of Himyar in Yemen, constructed his palace using onyx stones.
Historical records mention that when al-Muzaffar al-Salihi became the ruler of Yemen, he presented lavish gifts to his Fatimid allies, which included 70 swords with agate handles, 12 knives with onyx blades, five intricately adorned agate garments, and numerous precious stones. Abu al-Hassan al-Hamdani (893-945 AD) writes that during his time, the art of decorating and utilizing onyx reached its pinnacle. Onyx was crafted into bottles, chests, sword handles, and plates.
Yemen has a long-standing tradition of stone carving, and the Yemeni people were renowned as “Masters of Carving.” Al-Hamdani further mentions that the variety of agate, the range of colors found in onyx, and the beauty of green jade gained tremendous renown during the golden age of Islam. Iraqi historian Jawad Ali (1907-1977) refers to the specialization of Yemenis in extracting precious stones from mountains in his book “Details in the History of Pre-Islamic Arabs.” Yemenis continue to practice the art of polishing gemstones, using fine sand and water abrasives to shape them into various forms. These gemstones are used to create jewelry in different colors such as white, black, blue, yellow, red, and even combinations of colors.
Agate Mines in Yaman
Yemeni agate deposits are predominantly found in volcanic regions. The primary mining locations for Yemeni agate, which have persisted from ancient times to the present day, include Mount Elhan in Aanas, west of Dhamar. Additionally, these rocks can be found in close proximity to Sanaa, specifically in Kholan, Jabal Nogum, Sawan, and Ashar. Other veins of Yemeni agate are also present in areas such as Al-Huban and Al-Rahida, located in the city of Taiz. Furthermore, there are additional deposits in the volcanic areas surrounding the cities of Aden and Mukalla.
Does only Yemeni agate have white or black stains or impurities or oncogenes?
While it is true that various properties can be found in agate specimens worldwide, there is no specific inclusion index or comprehensive scientific research exclusively dedicated to Yemeni agate. Although some laboratories in Iran have attempted to study Yemeni agate, no remarkable findings have been reported. In the case of red Yemeni agate, the presence of iron oxide or hematite is typically observed.
To establish the specific inclusions and unique characteristics of Yemeni agate, it would be necessary to examine numerous specimens from different regions within Yemen and compare them with agate from other parts of the world. This extensive analysis would help to determine any distinguishing features.
Considering that agate is a semi-precious stone, there may have been limited focus on examining inclusion patterns in specific regions. Agate deposits are abundant worldwide, including in Iran, India, Brazil, Africa, and various other locations. Consequently, the existence of similar visual traits or inclusions in Yemeni agate does not necessarily make it rare or exclusive. If one claims to have a Yemeni agate with particular features such as a honeycomb pattern or white spots, it is worth noting that the diversity of agate in Iran is so extensive that similar specimens can be found in regions outside of Yemen.
Heat treatment or dyeing of Yemeni Agate stones.
Are Yemeni Agate without thermal improvement?
No. It is a common practice to heat almost 90% of Yemeni agates using coal stoves, a tradition that has been passed down through generations for centuries. Yemenis are skilled in the art of agate heating. This heating process is typically applied to yellow and red Yemeni agate specimens. The remaining 10% of agate samples are of exceptional quality and do not require heating as they exhibit natural beauty.
Reasons Behind Thermal Enhancement of Yemeni Agate
Yemeni agate is often subjected to thermal improvement for various reasons. The primary purpose is to enhance its color and clarity. Heating the agate can intensify and bring out the natural hues present in the stone, particularly in yellow and red varieties. The heat treatment process can help remove or reduce any undesired impurities or discolorations, resulting in a more visually appealing gemstone. Additionally, heating can improve the transparency and overall quality of the agate, making it more desirable in the market. The practice of thermally improving Yemeni agate has been a longstanding tradition in Yemen, where the mastery of this technique has been passed down through generations.
The Impact of Thermal Strengthening on the Value and Price of Yemeni Agate
The thermal enhancement of Yemeni agate does not necessarily reduce its value and price. In fact, the heat treatment process can often enhance the stone’s visual appeal, color, and clarity, making it more desirable in the market. The treatment can improve the agate’s overall quality, which can positively influence its value. However, it is essential to consider various factors such as the quality of the agate, the skillfulness of the heating process, and the preferences of buyers when determining the value and price of Yemeni agate. Ultimately, the market demand and the perception of the stone’s enhanced beauty will play a significant role in determining its value.
The Difference Between Thermal Enhancement and Dyeing of Yemeni Agate?
Thermal enhancement and dyeing are two distinct processes used to enhance the appearance of gemstones, including Yemeni agate. While they can both alter the color or visual characteristics of the stone, the mechanisms and results differ.
Thermal Enhancement: Thermal enhancement refers to the application of heat to a gemstone to induce changes in its color or clarity. In the case of Yemeni agate, which is known for its naturally occurring banding patterns, heat treatment can intensify the colors and bring out the stone’s inherent beauty. This process is commonly used to enhance the contrast between the different bands of colors in the agate. Heat treatment is considered an accepted industry practice and is often done at relatively low temperatures.
Dyeing: Dyeing, on the other hand, involves the introduction of foreign substances, such as dyes or stains, into the gemstone to alter its color. Dyeing is a more invasive process compared to thermal enhancement. In the context of Yemeni agate, dyeing is not a traditional or commonly practiced method, as the stone’s natural coloration is highly valued. Yemeni agate is appreciated for its unique and striking natural banding patterns, and altering its color through dyeing would be considered as artificially enhancing or altering the stone.
It’s worth noting that the gemstone industry has guidelines and ethical standards regarding disclosure of treatments applied to gemstones. If a gemstone has undergone thermal enhancement or dyeing, reputable jewelers and sellers should disclose this information to the buyer, allowing them to make an informed purchasing decision.
In summary, thermal enhancement involves the controlled application of heat to intensify the natural colors and patterns in Yemeni agate, while dyeing involves the introduction of foreign substances to alter the stone’s color, which is not a commonly practiced method for Yemeni agate.
Is there a way to tell Yemeni agate is heated or not?
Yes, it is possible to observe traces of heat in a stone when examining it under a microscope or a magnifying loop. These traces may indicate that the stone has been subjected to heating processes. However, it is important to note that while the presence of heat traces can be detected, it does not necessarily confirm that the stone is specifically Yemeni agate.
When examining red agate stones, one can use the method of backlighting and observing them closely under a microscope. In heated red agates, the iron oxide grains may appear disorganized and cloudy. This is often an indication that the stone has undergone heat treatment.
Additionally, even with the naked eye, shadows around the rock can sometimes be observed, particularly towards the center. However, it is worth mentioning that identifying heated agate stones is not always straightforward and may require expertise or further analysis.
It’s important to approach the identification of gemstones with caution, as visual cues alone may not provide definitive evidence of their origin or treatment history. Professional gemologists and experts in the field utilize a combination of techniques, including microscopic examination, spectroscopy, and other specialized tests, to accurately identify gemstones and assess their characteristics.
Are the all original Yemeni Agate dyed?
Not all Yemeni Agate stones are dyed. Yemeni Agate is a type of agate that is found in Yemen and is known for its beautiful natural patterns and colors. These agates can occur in a range of colors, including shades of red, orange, brown, and white. Many Yemeni Agate stones display vibrant and distinct patterns, making them highly valued in the gemstone market.
However, it is worth noting that there can be instances where Yemeni Agate or any other type of agate is subjected to dyeing processes. Dyeing is a common treatment technique used in the gemstone industry to enhance or alter the color of a stone. Dyed agates can exhibit intense or uniform colors that may not occur naturally.
The traditional method of heat treatment and enhancement of Yemeni agate
The traditional “ashing” or “warming” process is performed to enhance the contrast between the dark and light colors of Yemeni agate. According to Al-Hamdani’s book titled “Ancient Jewels,” the process involves the following steps:
- Engraving: Basic tools are used to engrave the Yemeni agate stones. The name of the extraction site mountain is also engraved on the agate shelf.
- Container Placement: Raw Yemeni agates are placed in urn-like containers for several days.
- Sealing: The containers are sealed with plaster to create a tight seal.
- Burial: The sealed containers are then buried in hot ash or charcoal for a period of 2 weeks to 1 month. The agates are positioned about 2 inches deep under the ashes, and the charcoal used is finely cut and red in color.
- Dark Appearance: Initially, the agates will appear dark during the process.
- Color Development: After the cooking process, the red and yellow colors of the agates start to become visible.
It’s important to note that this traditional process is specific to Yemeni agate and may vary in different regions or for different types of agates.
Interestingly, agate miners in Yemen polish the rough edges of the agates and rub them against granite at the end of the process to enhance their appearance, despite the resulting scratches being quite visible. The experienced Yemeni agate craftsmen, who traditionally polish the agates using a lathe, are well acquainted with this method of working with rough agates.
Shaping and polishing stage
At this stage, the rough stone is shaped, cleaned, and refined. The process involves the use of polishing stones, known locally as “al-majrabah,” which is a regular rough stone typically from the same mountain or made of granite, for the initial polishing. The final stage of polishing is carried out using a soft stone called “Al-Tabshura.”
To facilitate the polishing operation on the stones, the polishing stone material is attached to a short stick using Arabic gum. This allows the stone to be easily polished on a lathe through a grinding process. Yemeni agate experts affirm that this traditional method produces higher quality results compared to modern methods that rely on machines.
The modern method for polishing Yemeni agate begins by placing the raw agate in a ceramic or metal container known as an “alberma.” The container is then sealed with clay paste to ensure isolation. Next, the dish is placed in an oven at a low temperature.
To give the agate its initial shape, the stone’s debris is removed using a small hammer. The stones are typically shaped according to market demand, and any unwanted pieces are discarded to achieve the desired shape determined by the master craftsman.
After the shaping process, the stones undergo polishing and refinement using techniques similar to those employed in other regions.
Do only Yemeni opals have the original signs of a honeycomb design inside?
No. Apart from the fact that small amounts of Yemeni agate have honeycombs, many agate from Khorasan, and even India or Brazil can have honeycomb forms. Now imagine a colorless or red agate that is not so desirable to be colored and heated. It has both a good color and a honeycomb design. Therefore, this case is not a solution in the diagnosis of Yemeni agate.
Is Yemeni Agate different from other parts of the world?
No, Some people think that Yemeni agates are in the shape of a cauliflower, But Yemeni Agate is not specifically associated with the shape of a cauliflower. The shape of agate formations can vary widely and is not exclusive to Yemeni Agate. Cauliflower-like formations can be found in agate from various regions, including Khorasan and other parts of the world.
In terms of the physical and chemical structure, there is no significant difference between Yemeni Agate and agate from other parts of the world. Agate, in general, is composed of quartz and exhibits similar properties regardless of its origin.
The main distinction of Yemeni Agate lies in its cultural and religious significance, particularly in Islamic beliefs. Yemeni Agate holds special importance in Islamic culture, and it is highly valued by Muslims. Its significance is rooted in Islamic traditions and beliefs, where the use of Yemeni Agate is emphasized and considered auspicious.
Is the test of not burning hair or yarn correct in diagnosing original Yemeni agate stone?
No! I do not know how this idea got to anyone’s mind, but it is clear that it is a fraudulent act.
Is only agate found in Yemen?
No. Yemen has many minerals. Yemen has been known since ancient times for its trade in agate and other ornamental stones such as onyx and jade. However, amongst the other stones, Agate has gained worldwide reputation as a magical stone.
Rred agate stones as well as other agate colors such as white, yellow, Black, Purple, Blue, etc. are found in many parts of Yemen. The Agate rocks are mainly from Aden and some other areas between Sa’da, Al-Hijaz and Najran. In fact, agate has been mined in southern Yemen for more than 7,000 years.
What is the type of Yemeni agate’s cutting?
In the past centuries, diamond sanding plates and other cutting tools were not as easily accessible as today. Names such as old carving, definite carving, ant head, hammer, nail or ax, ant foot, Yemeni registration carving (flat), etc. which are used to describe old agates only exist due to the use of early tools such as granite. With the old methods, scratches and grooves or traces of grains resembling ant footprints remained on the polished stone and could be seen with a 10x loop or under a microscope.
Although these types of abrasions have undesirable effects on the polishing of the stone, but they lead to the belief that it is old and without artificial improvement and discoloration, and the signature of the Yemeni agate, therefore their presence increases the price of the agate. THIS IS A MISTAKE. It is true that these methods were used in ancient times, but for centuries the Yemenis have been improving agates, and heating is a traditional custom among them. Thus, attempting to distinguish the Yemeni agate by its appearance can lead us astray.
Today, although new registration lathes are common, but it has been seen that some lathes also heat Khorasan agates and after finishing the work, they create scratches and grooves (for example with 400 sandpaper) and scratches on it so that it will look like Old Yemeni agate carved with old tools. Now tell me, can the appearance of this stone tell you if its original Yemeni Agate or not !?
Why is Yemeni agate valuable?
The significance of Yemeni agate stems from its rich historical background. Yemeni agate has established itself as a renowned brand due to its historical significance. Moreover, it holds a profound sense of honor and spiritual value within the Muslim community. Consider a scenario where you have a Cambodian ruby and a Burmese ruby, both possessing the same exceptional quality and condition. However, the Burmese ruby commands a higher value due to its historical prominence and renowned mines. Similarly, in the case of agate, the historical accounts of its mines, coupled with narrations in Islamic texts about the esteemed stature of Yemeni agate from the Prophet or Imam Ali (as) and other Imams, have significantly elevated its value and widespread appeal.
Ibn Shahr Ashoob narrates that: One day Gabriel descended on the Prophet and said: O Rasulullah, my Lord sends greetings and peace upon you and says, Put your ring on your right hand and put agate as its jewel and also tell to your cousin Ali (as) to put his ring in his right hand and put agate as its jewel.
The Prophet (PBUH) conveyed the message of Gabriel to Ameer al-Mu’mineen (PBUH). The Imam asked: O Rasulullah, what is agate?
The Prophet (PBUH) said: It is the name of a mountain in Yemen.
In the past, the import and export of stones was not as fast as it is today, and it is not unusual for someone to point to a gem near their place of residence. For example, if the Mexican fire agate had been introduced to the Arabs at that time, it might have been one of the most popular agates! There are many narrations about agate, but Yemen is not mentioned. It has been narrated from Hazrat Amir Al-Momenin Ali (AS) that:
The prayer of a person who has an agate ring in his hand is forty times more rewarded than the congregational prayer of a person who has a non-agate ring in his hand.
Of course, we are right about the Yemeni red agates, which are among the highest quality agate in the world, but are they not available elsewhere? There are red agates in Iran which have a unique quality without the need for any improvement. Also some Indian or Brazilian agates with insignificant improvements (or just heating like the Yemeni ones) have very high quality samples.