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A True Beach Treasure: The Lake Superior Agate

Posted by Jody on September 22, 2011

Lake Superior Agate, cut and polished – Minnesota (Photo by Astynax/Wikipedia Commons)

Minnesota’s State Gem is the Lake Superior agate.  These beautiful red, orange, yellow, white and grey gemstones are generously spread throughout northeastern and north-central Minnesota.  According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:“The agate reflects many aspects of Minnesota. It was formed during lava eruptions that occurred in our state about a billion years ago. The stone’s predominant red color comes from iron, the major industrial mineral in our state. Finally, the widely distributed agate reveals the impact of glacial movement across Minnesota a mere 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.”  The Lake Superior agate can be found in virtually any exposed gravel or pebbly area throughout the state.  Minnesota’s rocky North Shore beaches of Lake Superior are especially good hunting grounds for agate hounds.

Polished Lake Superior Agate – Minnesota (Photo by Diana Stein/Wikimedia Commons)

What a perfect beachcombing find! It’s a lake shore discovery you can display, or with some polishing, wear as unique jewelry.  These richly colored Lake Superior agates can be found on the shoreline as far north as Lake Superior’s Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada.  They can also be found on the pebbly South Shore beaches of extreme northwestern Wisconsin and on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

It can be a  bit tricky to spot the Lake Superior agates in their natural setting. The State of Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources offers many tips and clues for finding and identifying the official state gem. “Agate Hounds”, a very good full-color brochure on the joys of Lake Superior agate hunting, is available for “young naturalists,” though it has helpful  information for agate hounds of all ages.  Be sure to check it out on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.

Additionally, Digging into Minnesota Minerals  includes sections on  the geologic history of the Lake Superior agate, distribution and clues to finding the state gemstone.

Happy beachcombing!  Have a gem of a day! -J-

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