Condor Agate 2.JPG

The Twelve Foundation Stones of the Holy City: Agate

There’s just something about gemstones, rocks, and crystals that has transfixed humanity since the beginning. The gleam of obsidian caught the eye of ancient indigenous hunters, who fashioned it into arrowheads. Mesmerizing blue shades of turquoise and lapis lazuli inspired some of the first gemstone jewelry created in ancient Egyptian and Sumerian times. The ancient Incans used the reflective properties of pyrite as a looking glass.

Crystals and stones are created in the very bedrock of our home planet, and as such, they have served as a foundation for our lives and civilizations. They are durable and everlasting—perfect for practical uses such as creating structures, tools, sculpture, jewelry, and petroglyphs.

Yet, crystals and stones have also excited and moved the human spirit. The captivating colors, sparkling sheen, and raw beauty of the mineral kingdom have an ethereal allure that inspired ancient people to be open to a higher spiritual power. Modern crystal healers would argue that crystals project coherent light and energy that positively affects and expands human consciousness, so that divine realms become accessible.

Perhaps that is why you can find references to the power of gemstones in almost every ancient culture and religion, including Christianity. Over one hundred verses in the Bible mention precious gems, and perhaps the most interesting one is found in the Book of Revelation.

The Book of Revelation is an enigmatic read, filled with visionary accounts of the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. The final two chapters, 21 and 22, are said to metaphorically describe the heavenly realm, and it is where we find mention of a future holy city. This city made of gold was described as having twelve stones in the foundation.

What are the Twelve Foundation Stones?

Revelation 21:19–20 reads, "The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst."

There’s debate among experts today about the accuracy of this list of foundation stones.

This is because the ancient names of gemstones don’t correspond with our modern mineral classifications. Instead of categorizing gemstones based on their crystalline forms and composition, like we do today, in ancient times stones were named based on their color, place of origin, or how they were used.

The International Gem Society published this list of the twelve foundation stones as the one they believe is the most accurate and correct version: Garnet, Amethyst, Jasper, Diamond, Emerald, Agate, Turquoise, Carnelian, Chrysolite (Peridot), Beryl, Topaz, and Ruby.

Each article in this series will cover the geological properties, historical uses, and metaphysical qualities of one foundation stone. This month, it’s all about the third foundation stone, agate.

Agate: Agate is an enchanting, earthy stone named after the place where it was first found: the Achates River in Sicily. It is the 14th anniversary stone, and although it is not an official birthstone, it is attributed to the astrological sign of Gemini.

Agate is a cryptocrystalline form of quartz, which means you can only see the crystalline structure with a microscope. It is a common variety of the Chalcedony family that is found worldwide, yet its delightful variety of colors and patterns are anything but common. Agate has been named the earth rainbow because it can form bands of every natural color found on this planet.

Agate is a translucent stone. Although there are some solid-colored agates, most specimens contain unique layers and patterns. Some examples of patterns found in agate are solid bands, delicate lace, spots, mossy inclusions, landscapes, and eyes. The different colors found in agate are formed by specific trace minerals present, such as iron, manganese, nickel, titanium, and chromium.

Agates are formed in rock cavities, most typically in volcanic rock. Silica from groundwater gets deposited and crystallizes in layers over a long period of time. There are hundreds of different varieties of agate. Each has its own host of unique properties, yet they all maintain an overarching frequency of stability, strength, harmony, and balance.

Here is a list of some of the most popular types of agate favored today by gem collectors and the metaphysically minded: Blue Lace Agate, Crazy Lace Agate, Moss Agate, Dendritic Agate, Tree Agate, Fire Agate, Laguna Agate, Botswana Agate, Plume Agate, Flower Agate, Banded Agate, Black Agate, Condor Agate, Iris Agate, Polyhedroid Agate, and Thunder Egg Agate.

Historical Uses:

Since agate is an abundant stone found worldwide, there’s a treasure trove of ancient lore describing its historical uses and perceived magical properties. There’s evidence that the Egyptians mined agate as far back as 3500 B.C. The Egyptians believed that each specific color of agate had unique energetic properties, and they carved images of their gods into agate. They wore gray agate around the neck to treat neck stiffness. It was also considered to be a cure for colic.

Ancient Sumerian artifacts made of agate date back to 200–2300 B.C., such as decorative items, animal carvings, beads, and signets. They believed that wearing agate bestowed blessings from the gods. Ancient Arabic cultures used agates with eye patterns, which they called Aleppo, to protect against the evil eye and to treat boils. According to Islamic belief, red agates could be used to staunch the flow of blood, and white agate was called “milk stone” as it was known to increase lactation.

In Chinese tradition, agate was said to originate from the horse and was spit from its mouth. Chinese doctors and herbalists call agate ma-nao, which means “horse’s brain” due to its patterned and banded appearance, which looks like brain tissue. Another Chinese belief was that agate was the petrified blood of the ancestors. Although agate wasn’t as prized as jade was to the Chinese, it was still considered to be an important and noteworthy stone.

Pliny the Elder (the first-century Roman author of an encyclopedia of natural science) wrote extensively about Agate and contributed to defining its many attributes. According to Pliny, gazing upon agate allows the eyes to rest, and placing agate in your mouth quenches thirst. Green agate from India, in powdered form, was described as a cure for eye diseases. Red agate from Egypt or Crete could treat scorpion or spider bites. He wrote that an agate of a single color could make wrestlers invincible. Pliny also claimed that cups made of agate would keep wine and beverages cool.

Physiologus, a Greek author from the fourth century, claimed that Agate could be tied to a rope and dropped to the bottom of the ocean. The direction in which it turned indicated where pearls could be found.

Here are some beliefs about Agate from the Middle Ages: Agate was known to enhance happiness, judgment, intelligence, eloquence, and the ability to negotiate—and therefore was seen as a good talisman for business. It was also believed that wearing agate procured God’s favor and conferred protection from danger. Agate was also believed to be a cure for insomnia that could bring you positive dreams.

Metaphysical Properties:

They say variety is the spice of life. The agate family is like a whole spice kitchen unto itself, filled with a cornucopia of exotic varieties. While each type of agate has its own unique healing properties based on the colors and trace minerals, there are some properties that are universal among all agates.

Agate is famous for having a slow and steady vibration. Although the banded layers in agate may appear fine and graceful, they are quite sturdy and strong. This gives it a stabilizing and strengthening quality that positively affects the physical, mental, and emotional bodies, bringing greater coherence and healing to your whole system. The specific colors present in an agate specimen are an indicator of which aspects of the body and being it will most directly treat. (For instance, Blue Lace Agate resonates most with the throat center and communication.)

Agate has an earthy quality and a grounding touch. It soothes and stabilizes the auric field, settling erratic energy and eliminating negativity. Agate is known to diffuse and melt internal tension arising from stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma. It is a harmonizer that can balance yin/yang energy. It can also help you balance your chakras and your bodies of consciousness—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Agate is still considered a stone of energetic protection.

Agate has a focusing effect that can help you with concentration, intuitive perception, and self-analysis. The multiple layers found in agate are symbolic of what’s hidden in the subconscious, and the stone can bring this content into the light for healing and integration. Agate’s bands can also represent and tune you into different dimensional layers of reality. It is a stone of oneness and collective consciousness, known to help you connect with beings residing in the spiritual realms.

Agate is known to have a healing effect on various systems of the body. It is stimulating to the digestive system and relieves inflammation in the stomach lining. It can regulate hormones and support detoxification in the lymphatic system. Agate lends support to the skeletal system and can assist in the healing of osteoporosis and arthritis. It is also known to strengthen the blood vessels and treat the energetic causes of heart issues.

Agate is a stone of many layers, adding a stabilizing dimension to the walls of the heavenly city. Working with it can help you establish a stronger foundation in your own life. Stay tuned for the next article in this series, which will dive into the history and properties of the fascinating foundation stone, Emerald.