Agate (Aqeeq al-Yemeni), also known as onyx, is a metamorphosed and hardened version of quarts that has been renowned as a gemstone in south arabia since ancient times.Yemen may have been the first place where this stone was manufactured. Although found all over the world, agate from Yemen is most prized for it's fascinating range of forms and colors and the expertise with which it is cut. Pieces of cut and polished Yemeni agate are worn on rings by many arab men, and it's also commonly set in other jewelry and ornaments. In addition to the prized red variant, which ranges in hue from pomegranate to caramel.Yemeni agate also appears in every imaginable shade of white, yellow, orange, blue, gray, brown and black. It can be found in solid pieces of uniform color.Inclusions in pieces of agate often take other surprising shapes, as well : soaring birds, running horses, long-lashed women in veils and others shapes, such stones can fetch prices of US $100 or more. Truly astounding pieces have asking prices of as much as $10000, not an unrealistic figure as some of the biggest agate collectors come from Saudia Arabia, Emirates, Jordon, Oman and some western countries.
Veins of raw agate appear in many of the volcanic formations of Yemen's highlands, while beautiful banded agate is also found enclosed in quartz-filled geodes scattered on the slopes, it's minded from remote mountainsides in fist-sized chunks by prospectors using hammers. The best veins are closely guarded secrets, although there are many outcrops of agate to be found. The regions of Ans in Dhamar and Al-Sha'er in Ibb are particularly famous for the quality and color of their stone. After the raw agate is extracted, it's put in containers and heated for 15 min to weaken and expose any cracks or flaws. Every chunk of raw agate is carefully inspected before cutting, wetting each piece and looking at it through light, and most skilled agate cutters have usually spotted some particularly beautiful feature before chiseling and grinding the stone.
Some people believe pieces of agate have healing powers, but only a handful of old people still have the special knowledge to find out whether or not a stone possesses such powers. The rituals verge on magic, using a book with special diagrams in it to determine the properties of a stone. Many stories can be heard, ranging from miracle cures djinns to the agates with shapes that protect their wearer from the Evil Eye. But one thing is certain, whether in terms of those stones with shapes and colors that can only be seen when held up to the light, or those with rumored magical properties, there is more to Yemeni agate than meets the eye.!