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Fordite: A Motor City gemstone
Rock hounds flock to the shores of Lake Superior in search of agates, the colorful layered gemstones treasured by lapidaries and lovers of semiprecious stones. Those agates were formed with layers of different minerals eons ago when water vapor, carbon dioxide, and silica became trapped in iron-rich lava flows. Lapidaries today also work with another form of “agate,” one that's decades rather than eons old, created just a few hundred miles south of "the big lake they call gitche gumee," in the words of Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. Some call this variegated stone "motor agate," industrial agate, or Detroit agate, but its more popular name is fordite. Unlike real agate, it was created in car factories, not volcanoes.