One of Michigan’s Rarest Gemstones Isn’t Even a Gem– Or A Stone!
Rockhounds love the Great Lakes State!
For those that love to collect rocks, stones, and gemstones, a.k.a. rockhounds, Michigan must be paradise. Think about it, we've got over 3,288 linear miles of coastline of rocky beaches so you're essentially guaranteed to his the motherlode.
You may have heard of Leland Blue, which is actually blue glass slag from the old iron ore mines in the U.P., or perhaps the amazing glowing stone Yooperlite that has grown in popularity in recent years--but have you heard of "Fordite"?
What is Fordite?
Also called "Motor City Agate" or "Industrial Agate", if you guessed that this gem has ties to the famous auto-making Ford family you are correct. Fordite is actually a byproduct of painting cars by hand and doesn't contain any rocks or metal-- at all.
This "gem" is simply layers of enamel paint buildup from the car factory!
Just how exactly does this happen? The website Fordite.com explains how the "incidental industrial gem" came to be:
The oversprayed paint in the painting bays gradually built up on the tracks and skids that the car frames were painted on... Some of these deeper layers were even baked 100 times. Eventually, the paint build-up would become obstructing, or too thick and heavy, and had to be removed. As the story goes, some crafty workers with an eye for beauty realized that this unique byproduct was worth salvaging.
With so many different cars coming through the line, multiple layers of various colors and paint would build up over time. Typically these pieces of slag were discarded; that is, until one day when someone had the thought to polish up the paint pieces to reveal the mesmerizing pattern underneath.
Thus, Fordite was born!
Fordite is in rare supply these days, believe it or not. The auto industry has adapted over the years and the way they paint cars now has changed meaning there is very little paint wasted; this has caused the enamel slag supply to dwindle.
And unlike most rocks and gems in Michigan, you can't simply comb the beach in search of Fordite! According to Hagerty, some of the rarest pieces of Fordite are from the period of high-impact colors in the '60s and '70s like Ford’s "Grabber Blue" or Mopar’s "Plum Crazy" purple.
A quick search on eBay shows current Fordite prices ranging anywhere from $48 to $300! How much would you be willing to pay for what's essentially a paint chip?
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