72mm x 54mm
I remember collecting this piece in the autumn of 2017, at a visit to Balmerino with Ingrid and Luca. It was found at a place where a tangle of branches overhanging the carcass of a fallen tree, meet the rising river. Investigating such places where you must duck your head or even crawl to access your quarry is often advantageous I find. That said, giving your socks and plimsolls a good hearty soaking is a given in regular agate collection; you'll almost always purport to recognise something scintillating a little too far out in the submerging shingle and it is an extreme rarity for me to return to my blotchy Corsa with feet anything less than gruesome. Furthermore, spiking the hinder part of your head, shoulders and torso on sharp protruding branches at Balmerino as you scrabble around like a raven trapped in a hayloft is also inescapable. It's a must, though, yes, I digress, it's what I do.
Anyway, as I was saying. I had to take a good few moments to study the piece, as in outward appearance it was more akin to flint or Chert. I was sure I could see banding; indeed the piece reminded me of agates from the Kintyre peninsula in texture, those pieces being worn from the host rock twice, once from andesitic basalt, and again from infiltrating conglomerate.
If I were able to devise the inner topography of an agate alone, without the invasive clamour of media, oblivion's wry mediation, or the wearing distraction of the gamut of days then I might concoct something of this ilk. What, with the intricate white curlicues of fortification coiling in wraith-like undulations around the acicular inclusions like some Martian font dissolved in the apex of a vivid fever, its high level of detail and seemingly chaotic nature would naturally appeal. Though that is said with the privilege of hindsight.
It is true to say that I did not at first perceive the spectre of woodsmoke quartz that nestled in this one's bosom. That was primarily because after polishing, the face was so fractured that I felt the beauty I had glimpsed after cutting was obscured. So I immersed the stone in a saucepan of molten wax for six hours which caused the colours to pale, though the cracks were now invisible. But now that contrast between the agate like ethereal seashell and the morion black quartz was exquisite! I felt the piece had, in being inadvertently altered, realised its proper potential.
A good-sized specimen for the location, but not a huge agate by any stretch of imagination, so I attribute the near hour-long cut to it's apparent high-density. A Richard Dadd hedgerow of inclusion. Another masterstroke in which I had a very ungainly and anaemic hand. Concurrent with that possibility is the very authoritive weight and solidity of the husk of this piece, being of a nature I have only encountered once before at Balmerino. In a specimen as yet unmolested. Clearly highly water-worn, with a gloss not in keeping with its sistren, I wonder if this suggests a difference in provenance. Glacial till from the grey hills to the immediate south, or even deposits out to sea. There is a suggestion of it being far older than the other agates normally encountered at this location, though it's mere fancy, which goes gaily hand-in-hand with the layman's analysis of a geologist's landscape. Furthermore, as I alluded to above, could this be an example of an agate enduring the erosive process twice, such as those specimens found at Kintyre? Something in its grain suggests to me the answer could be "yes". In its lustrous cast lies a palpable sense of its hardship.
So, what further is there to disclose? Well, there's the matter of this halve's mate, unpolished, still showing the original colouration. It would be a fine thing to polish him, and have the two present together. That's another story for future days.
Immediately after Cutting.
Fractures visible after polishing.
71mm x 53mm. Ground and polished by Calum Creevy