Ellensburg Blue Agate
Named for the town nearest its source, Ellensburg, Washington, the Ellensburg Agate began attracting the attention of collectors since about 1930. This was around the same time the name came into being. Instead of referring to it as the blue rock the Indians found, the agate stone was named Ellensburg Blue Agate.
Legend has it that the color blue was reserved only for the chiefs of some of the western tribes. Not all tribes followed this practice, but for those that did, a blue rock was very symbolic for the chief to have. It has never been proven, but some have speculated that the blue rock might have been an Ellensburg Blue traded from the Indians that inhabited the Ellensburg Valley because of the size of the stones that have been recorded.
For years the Indians would try to sell the blue rock to the settlers in the valley. The settlers didn't want to pay for an old rock, but this was soon to change. The first accounts of anyone using the rock came right after the turn of the century. In 1905, the mayor of Ellensburg sent two blue agates to Seattle to be made into rings. The rings were very beautiful and changed the way people viewed the blue agate.
Stones from Carlson Brothers are unique in a geological sense. Personal communication and written articles all describe the Ellensburg Blue Agate as being transported into the Ellensburg Valley by glaciers. The stones from Carlson Brothers are found and dug from a vein near the Valley. This provides an adequate supply for the jewelry made by Carlson Brothers.
This opportunity to study the actual rock, fro, mining, through the finished product has provided a unique situation. A common characteristic has appeared in 95 percent of the stones. This feature is different from features found in other blue agates studied from other parts of the world. This provides a means of identifying an Ellensburg Blue Agate from other blue agates.
Digging from a vein of Ellensburg Blue Agate still doesn't ensure an abundant supply. The variations of color explain the uniqueness of the color in the actual vein. The distance of as little as six inches can mean the difference between an unacceptable color and a very pleasing color. Combine this with fractures in the rock and pieces of the surrounding rock in the vein makes for very few carats of finished gemstones from pounds of rough material.
Ellensburg Blue Agate is a form of quartz called chalcedony. It is found as both a vein and a cavity filling being deposited from aqueous solutions. The cavity fillings tend to be more translucent than the veins. The veins tend to be more opaque with more inclusions.
The color, as suggested in the name, is blue. This is not the vivid, intense shade of blue, but rather the subtle shade of blue, gray-blue, and lavender-blue. One Characteristic of the Ellensburg Blue Agate observed is the difficulty of matching the color in two stones. Each stone is unique in the shade of color. Therefore, earrings are difficult to obtain. The uniqueness of each stone color also suggests that it be held up to the hand of the person wearing it, thus helping find the color that compliments their tone the best.
People who cut the agate say the hardness is greater than that of other agate. Hardness is defined as resistance to scratching. Most textbooks say the hardness of agate is 7 on MOH's scale. Our observation on wearing of the stone indicates it shows less wear over a period of time compared to stones harder than a 7, correlating with the stone cutters observation.
The Ellensburg Blue Agate mounts up well in yellow gold due to yellow being a complimentary color of blue. About 5 percent of the stones will look best in white gold or silver, while yellow gold sets off the remaining percent.
Diamonds compliment the blue agate better than any other gemstone. Its neutral look doesn't compete with the blue agate like other colors do.