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Kenucky Agate was formed in the Borden layer of the MIssissippian geologicl age which according to geologists was between 225 and 375 million years ago. The shale of the borden formation is brown to green colored siltstone which is the matrix in which the agate was formed. The siltstone matrix exposed to the weather erodes and the agates slowly move down the hillsides into the streams in Powell,Estill and Jackson counties.

We have more varied forms and colors of agate here in Kentucky than any other single known area in the world. The forms include banded, fortification, moss, sagentic, plume, flame, cloud, veil, snowflake, eye and crazy lace. Some agates have two or more combinations of forms with variations from opaque to translucent. The colors range from single representations to complex combinations of brilliant red, orange, yellow, burgundy, oxblood, to the more subtle pastels of lavender, pink, pale green and grey.

About the Book


Among the rarest and most prized minerals, agate is one of the most exquisite examples of nature’s artwork. A striking rock that occurs in various shapes and sizes, with a vivid assortment of colors, agates are coveted by collectors and becoming rarer across the globe. Although the Bluegrass State is usually overlooked in the international study of agate, some of the most beautiful and colorful specimens in the world are hidden away in the rugged terrain of eastern Kentucky’s scenic Knobs Region.

Kentucky Agate is the first book to showcase the unique mineral, treasured for its fine grain and vibrant banks of deep, varied colors. Authors Roland L. McIntosh and Warren H. Anderson have collected hundreds of professional color photographs, revealing the beauty and diversity of this sought-after stone. With detailed maps of the region surrounding the city of Irvine, Kentucky, including parts of Estill, Powell, Jackson, Menifee, Madison, and Lee counties, Kentucky Agate reveals locations where agate may be found. Featuring full-color photographs showing aspects of the rock not visible to the naked eye, this book also provides detailed information on the history, geology, chemistry, and formation of the mineral, giving collectors and Kentucky nature enthusiasts a stunning look into the world of agate collection and the hidden story of the breathtaking formation of the official state rock.



Reviews of Kentucky Agate Book


From rough found in the streambeds of Station Stamp Creek to finished jewelry, the story of Kentucky agates, the official rock of the Bluegrass State, is told in words and shown with beautiful images.

The adventure starts in the first chapter, which offers 10 examples of agate types with descriptive names such as plume, moss, cloud, and flame. The photo meant to show moss and dendritic agate is not a good example, though, as the image did not clearly resemble moss on a rock of the branches of a tree, as described.  

Chapter 2 explores when and where to find agates, as well as places where collecting is not permitted, such as Daniel Boone National Forest or the Natural Bridge State Park and River Gorge Geological Area, both of them scenic and popular spaces. Maps and photos of these locations are provided. The chapter also provides the names of gem and mineral shows, both within and outside the state, where agates are sold, as well as Kentucky colleges and museums with collections that are open to the public.

The formation and geology of agates are covered in the next two chapters. Chapter 3 features 16 photos of polished material, with captions describing the incredible colors and unique features of each sample. Chapter 4 includes a geologic map of the area where most Kentucky agates are found, along with the origins of their beautiful colors and banded patterns.

Microscopic features are described and shown in chapter 5. Under magnification, the causes of the unique features are more easily seen, and the captions offer additional details. For example, page 40 features an agate with heart-shaped banding, yellow limonite, and red hematite spherical inclusions. Ten of the samples are shown in reflected light, two in transmitted light, and another two in both reflected and transmitted light. The differences in appearance are striking, though it is unfortunate that the captions don’t list the magnification used.

The highlight of the book is chapter 6, featuring 255 photographs of cut specimens and slices. There are no more than two agates per page for over 149 pages. The backgrounds have been removed from the photos so the agates are seen against the white page, which makes the beautiful colors, patterns, and features even more breathtaking.

The final chapter features 11 examples of agate jewelry, with a photo displaying various agate cabochons. There is a refreshing mix of the traditional belt buckles and bolo ties alongside some very modern designs. One notable example is a tie clasp featuring a freeform polished agate with bold, contrasting colored bands of red and gray/black designed and created by Rachel Savané. Additional works are listed in the bibliography for readers interested in more information.

In this volume, Ronald McIntosh and Warren Anderson bring together an amazing collection of agates, professionally photographed with high-quality printing, creating a greater level of appreciation for these natural works of art.

-Douglas Kennedy is an instructor of gemology at GIA in Carlsbad, California




The agates found in east central Kentucky are little known in the agate world compared to those from Argentina and Mexico. Yet, Kentucky agates are among the most vividly colored agates this writer has ever seen. I saw them first in the 1970s in Tucson and was immediately impressed by their beauty. Now agate lovers have an opportunity to learn about these amazing agate beauties that rival agates the world over. A new book, Kentucky Agate, from the University Press of Kentucky, is a must for every collector and lover of agates. -- Bob Jones, Senior Consulting Editor, Rock & Gem magazine



This book is a validation and recognition of the significance of this exquisite agate by the elected representatives of Kentucky. The beauty of banded agates can only be appreciated with good photography. The photographic presentation is excellent and covers all the variations of color and pattern that make this agate so attractive and desirable to anyone that appreciates the beauty of these natural objects. -- Roger Clark, author of Fairburn Agate: Gem of South Dakota





In terms of color, variety, and complexity, the Kentucky agates that illustrate this volume are world-class. -- Peter Heaney, Penn State University

McIntosh is an expert on Kentucky agate - stones clustered largely in the Kentucky counties of Jackson, Powell, and Estill. Uncut and unpolished, they look like seeing the earth from a low-flying airliner: intricate patterns of green and gray with an occasional pop of color.
These Kentucky agates have "a wider range of colors and patterns than any agate from anywhere in the world," McIntosh, 69, said. "Any time I open an agate it's a new adventure."-- -- Cheryl Truman