Fordite - Detroit's Agate? | Properties and Information

Fordite - Detroit's Agate? | Properties and Information

Fordite – The Gemstone That's Not Quite a Stone

In the grimy auto plants of motor companies you may find brightly colored slabs of stone. Sometimes they have a dazzling array of colors. In other cases, the slab is a solid color with a pearly sheen. But what is Fordite? As the title may hint at, it isn’t a stone in the literal sense but is treated as a gemstone nonetheless. Fordite is also known as Detroit agate, or, less commonly, Motor City agate. Fordite is the most common name because, as the legend goes, that's where it began.

Fordite is actually hardened paint. Before automation and widespread use of powder coating, painting cars was done by hand. Excess paint would accumulate and later be scraped or recycled.  Any excess that wasn’t reused hardened over time. Thus, Fordite was born. People have been collecting fFrdite for decades for its beauty and novel origins. But, if you think this stone is weird, you might find this blog interesting.

Image of Four sets of Two Fordite Pieces; right to left: blue, white, red, black
This is "Fordite"

So, just how much paint is needed to make some of these beauties? Well, according to the GIA, it could take as much as almost 1000 layers to create a piece that is a inch long. Yeah, that's a lot of paint. Due to the nature of the material, those who cut and work with it are encouraged to wear the proper gear. If you're curious about what goes into that kind of safety, check out our blog on the subject! You might wonder, "is Fordite toxic?" Not necessarily. Normal contact isn't generally considered harmful, but do not ingest or cut it without proper gear, as the dust can be harmful.

It's unlikely that we will see anything quite like fordite for some time. Why? The reason is that companies have gotten better about their paint waste disposal. These days, that kind of process is automated and leaves little to scrape up for jewelry. Because of that, we are left with what we have. Of course, someone could create their own enamel-based paint jewelry, but it won't be the same. We could see "real" Fordite and "manmade" Fordite. The modern stuff just won't have that vintage vibe...


What is Corvettite? Is that another kind of "Fordite?" What's up with the term Detroit agate? This is a big naming thing. As Fordite grew in popularity, people started to become more and more interested as to where the source was. You can kind of think of it like any other stone, where people want to know where that stoned was mined. In this case, people wanted to know which company it came from. People who loved cars and loved gemstones thought this was pretty cool, so finding out which piece of Fordite came from which car became kind of fun.

Image of Three Fordite Pieces - Corvettite; right to left, red, yellow, red
This is "Corvettite"

However, this started to create a few problems with naming, as not every piece of Fordite was actually from a Ford. Some came from Chevrolet, and some of the most prized came from Corvettes. Then, some people liked Chrysler, wanting to pitch Chryslerites. The story goes on from there.

To have a more general or neutral name, some people proposed Detroit agate. Some, however, thought this wasn't an appropriate name, as it could potentially mislead people into thinking it was real agate from Detroit, when that wasn't the case at all. The same applied to Motor City agate. The gemstone community s no stranger to misnomers, and many have been dedicated to ensuring that only proper or accurate names are used in recent times. Thus, Detroit agate lost to Fordite in the long run.

The Wrap Up

Fordite is pretty rare, but if you can see it up close, you may easily find that it's exceptionally beautiful for what it is! We are glad to be able to appreciate a unique and fascinating part of not just car history, but jewelry history, too. The means with which one can acquire Fordite as they could decades ago, however, is no longer possible. So the Fordite on the market is about the limit of the supply unless some more is found. Looking where to buy Fordite? Check out store regularly, as we are always adding new goodies!

Image of Four sets of Two Fordite Pieces; right to left: blue, white, red, black


GEMS & GEMOLOGY, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 87-88

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