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What is Snakeskin Agate?

seven snakeskin agate rough stones on a wooden board

Snakeskin Agate from Oregon

Snakeskin agate is a variety of agate with botryoidal formations that give it a 'bobbly' appearance.

Snakeskin agate can be found in Rome and close to Prineville, Oregon in the U.S.

The name 'snakeskin agate' is likely to have come about because some material exhibits scale-like markings similar to those on a snake.

Rocks and minerals are often given trade names to make them easier to sell. These names are typically more memorable than scientific names but are often misleading in relation to the material's chemical composition.

Snakeskin agate is particularly distinctive.  The raised nodules are correctly known as 'botryoidal' formations. Within the rounded clusters are crystals that form when minerals precipitate out of a solution.

Botryoidal formations occur in a wide variety of minerals including chalcedony.  Agate is a type of chalcedony.  Other varieties of chalcedony include jasper, carnelian and onyx.

Chalcedony is a microcrystalline variety of quartz, meaning its crystals are too small to be seen with the naked eye.

The word 'botryoidal' comes from the Greek 'botryoides' meaning 'cluster of grapes.' In geology, 'botryoidal' describes a mineral formation that's spherical or globular, similar to a bunch of grapes.

Botryoidal hematite and botryoidal malachite are relatively common.  In snakeskin agate, these formations create distinctive nodules or protrusions that jut out from the surface of the stone.  Within the nodules there could be distinctive concentric bands. 

Although agate can be exceptionally colourful it often occurs in grey, white and black.  For this reason, a significant amount of agate is dyed to make it more appealing to the wider commercial market.  An example is the polished agate slices which can be found in almost every colour imaginable.

Snakeskin agate is popular with collectors.  Some outer sections of the stone exhibit a vitreous lustre while others are dull.  Stones with a vitreous lustre reflect light in a similar way to glass, while those with a dull lustre absorb light.

The snakeskin agate stones in our photo are from our collection. The photo is clickable and redirects to the original full-size image. 

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