At first glance, these brilliantly colorful gemstones might look like agate, a stone valued for its beauty and used in the jewelry industry. Their origin, however, might surprise you – these stones, called Fordite or Detroit Agate, are actually paint deposits from old car paintings racks.
Before the car painting process was automated like it is now, automotive bodies were painted by hand on long production lines. The vehicles’ paint would drip off and dry on the equipment used to move the automotive bodies. This enamel paint would then get baked onto the rack and solidify. After this process is repeated hundreds or thousands of times, the deposits can grow to be several inches thick.
Enterprising workers who recognized their potential value chipped off these waste products and saved them to be turned into jewelry later. When these stones are ground down and polished, they reveal a dazzling array of colors.
Some these stones can represent America’s automotive history – the older Fordite specimens contain colors that are no longer popular today, like pastel yellow or sea-foam green. Although modern jewelers are moderately successful at recreating the process and creating their own Fordite, the stones with an actual history to them are the most valuable.