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Fordite: A jewelry-lover’s fortuitous accident

You won’t find fordite in your rockhound’s handbook, but this upcycled  composite is  perfect for eco-friendly jewelry designs.

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Fordite, often called “Detroit Agate” or “Motor Agate,” has been made into stunning jewelry pieces, but it’s really an industrial artifact from the automotive factories in Detroit, Michigan.

 

Years ago, a car frame would be spray-painted by hand by plant workers. The multiple colors and layers of hardened paint would build up on the tracks and skids below. The car bodies moved onward on the assembly line into ovens where the paint was cured, and the layers hardened even more. Over time, this “slag” became heavy and thick, and had to be removed.

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Search online for fordite pendants, such as this from DetroitRocksJewelry.

 

There are lots of stories in Motor City about automotive plant workers who saw beauty in this industrial by-product and took it home. Rockhounds discovered that, like gemstones, it could be cut and polished pretty easily, and put into jewelry settings.

 

The earliest pieces are the most treasured and are mostly blacks and browns. Some fordite has distinctive gray primer layers between swirls of more colorful metallic paint. Especially coveted is fordite from the Ford River Rouge Plant, because of the bright green and orange colors.

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For gorgeous fordite cabochons, view Stones of Lake Superior’s selection.

 

The earliest pieces are the most treasured and are mostly blacks and browns. Some fordite has distinctive gray primer layers between swirls of more colorful metallic paint. Especially coveted is fordite from the Ford River Rouge Plant, because of the bright green and orange colors.

 

The hand spraying that created fordite was phased out on the assembly line in the 1970s, when robots and electrostatic painting processes were installed. But collectors and family members of former autoworkers still search for fordite as an historic and nostalgic souvenir of that period of automotive production. 

 

NOTE: Fordite is in limited supply, so get some while you still can! Find it through various lapidary artists online and at bead and gem shows.

 

 

 

Have a question or comment? Please contact us at editor@FacetJewelry.com.

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