Moss Agate is a visually unusual and interesting stone. It takes a beautiful polish and has a hardness of 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale, making it an excellent choice as a gemstone.
However, what would a gemstone be without some controversy?
Many geologists define agates as being banded. Moss agate is chemically an agate - a type of chalcedony formed due to volcanic action - but lacks the banding typical in other agates. Moss agate is distinguished by filaments in a transparent, translucent, or white background. The filaments create beautiful branching structures reminiscent of trees, bushes, or moss These filaments can be seen in our Moss Agate Leaf Pendant, pictured below.
Despite its name, moss agate contains no moss or organic material. It’s similar to dendritic agate, though the filaments in moss agate are created by green hornblende or chlorite. (In dendritic agate, the filaments are composed of iron or manganese.) In moss agate, the filaments are most commonly green but can be reddish or brown. In both dendritic and moss agate, the dendrites are the result of metallic impurities introduced through cracks and fissures in volcanic rock. As the rock is compressed into gemstone, it captures the filaments and forms intricate patterns.
Sources of moss agate are found all over the world, including several mines in Canada and the U.S.
Since ancient times, agates have been used as jewellery and as amulets. Agate beads, for example, have been found that date back to Mesopotamia in the third millennium B.C, or even earlier.
Some sources claim that moss agate also goes by the ancient name mocha stone. Interestingly, the 1911 version of the Encyclopedia Britannica claims that mocha stone is dendritic agate, a position in agreement with “Gemstones of the World” by Walter Schumann, whereas a later version of the same encyclopedia claims mocha stone to be moss agate. (Mocha stone is an ancient name associated with the city of Mocha or Mocca, in Yemen.)
The Royal Ontario Museum has in its collection a snuff bottle made of moss agate that dates from the Qing dynasty (15th to 18th century).
In Edwardian and Victorian times, in Britain and in Europe, agates were popular choices for gemstones. Moss agate surged in interest during the Art Nouveau period, where the natural beauty of its intricate patterns was held in high esteem. Moss agate pieces have been attributed to some of the best known jewelry companies, including Faberge.
Mythology and Lore
Belief in the metaphysical properties of gemstones goes back into prehistory. Agates are among the oldest stones to be worn for protection and benefit.
Some call moss agate the ‘gardener’s stone,’ a gem worn to aid in a bountiful harvest. It’s associated with connection to earth, nature, and growing things. It’s also viewed as a healing stone, assisting in childbirth and in recovery from illness.
Moss agate is considered especially useful for the heart chakra.
“Gemstones of the World” by Walter Schumann, Sterling New York, Fifth Edition
Bead with cuneiform inscription of Kurigalzu I or II | Kassite | Kassite | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org)
Eye Stone Amulet with a Dedication Inscription of King Kurigalzu I in Sumerian | Eye Stone Amulet | The Morgan Library & Museum
FABERGE Gold and Moss Agate Brooch by Wigstrom - Antique Jewelry | Vintage Rings | Faberge Eggs (romanovrussia.com)