In this article, we will introduce you to agatized coral and give you a few ideas of places to start hunting it.
Where To Find Agatized Coral In Florida: A Guide
The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.
Agatized coral (Cnidaria Anthozoa) is the state stone of Florida.
It is formed when silica in ocean water hardens, substituting limy corals with chalcedony, a kind of quartz.
This protracted process (which spans over a period of between 20 and 30 million years) leads to the production of a “pseudomorph,” or a mineral that has displaced another without losing its original shape.
Agatized coral is popular as a metaphysical entity, but many people who do lapidary work also love to collect these beautiful fossils.
Coral Agate or Agatized Coral are found in old ocean bottoms where silica-rich groundwater has seeped through and replaced the calcium carbonate exoskeleton with a hard Chalcedony type over time.
This gives the decorative fossil a banded stone appearance. It dates from the Oligocene-Miocene epoch and is around 38-25 million years old.
White, brown, gray, black, yellow, and red are some of the hues seen in these fossils.
These hues are created by various trace minerals found in the agate.
Many of these specimens have been discovered around Ballast Point in Tampa Bay.
The first discoveries were made in the 1840s.
In Tampa Bay, these corals are found in the Ballast Point area.
Here the land is almost fully developed, which means you have to rely on construction sites to find any of these brightly-colored stones.
Since the areas where they occur are mostly developed, reaching them is possible with any type of vehicle.
Sometimes a short hike might be required to reach areas where deposits occur.
Agatized coral can be found in sand and sandstone and you will find it on riverbeds or lying loose in low-lying areas.
The majority of the significant deposits seem to be shallow marine karst topography and marls ranging from the upper Oligocene to lower Miocene layers.
The majority of collectible spots, with a few exceptions, are found in the subsoil and are uncovered along river courses or by dredging and other excavation methods.
It is still a good idea to take a small hammer or splitting hammer to loosen it when attached to sandstone rock.
Finding them is easy when you know what to look for.
Knowing what they look like is important, since they are very dull on the outside and won’t warrant a second look from the untrained eye.
The spot where the Econfina River drains into the Gulf of Mexico is 2.2 miles (3.52km) south of Econfina State Park’s boat launch.
Large deposits of Agatized Coral are also found in this area.
Fortunately, the river is also accessible from outside of the park.
The park has the Econfina River as its eastern boundary.
The area is accessible from the eastern bank and the roads are not paved.
Most vehicles can reach the river system, where it is recommended that you access the area by boat.
The method to find the coral is the same as you would use in Tampa Bay, but the Econfina is a larger river.
It is also recommended that you search for coral in the dry season from October to January.
During this time, the roads are less muddy and the river level is lower, making it easier to spot and reach the coral, while not having to travel on muddy roads.
Tubular-shaped geodes are the most common kind of specimen discovered in this region.
The outside coralloid structures are deteriorated.
Many of these fossil corals have a central channel that runs the length of the coral.
When you slice these specimens lengthwise, the channel is filled with chalcedony, showing a lengthy central finger.
The Withlacoochee River is a tributary of the Suwannee River.
The Withlacoochee River originates northwest of Nashville, Georgia.
It runs south until it meets the New River.
The river meanders into Florida for 1.34 miles (2.1km) before returning to Georgia for another 2.44 miles (3.9km).
It then crosses back into Florida, until merging with the Suwannee River west of Live Oak.
The river stretches for 115 miles (185 km).
This river accounts for the bulk of Agatized Coral on the market today.
The section in Lowndes (Georgia), Madison, and Hamilton counties has the most Agatized Coral.
The partial silicification of each corallite distinguishes these corals from similar coral found in Ballast Point.
In this river, solid solicified coral is less prevalent.
Before or during silicification, the geodes’ contents somehow melted away, making them hollow..
Just like with the Agatized Coral deposits in the Econfina River, in the Withlacoochee River, has deposits all along its riverbed and the same with the Suwannee River.
Methods of collecting are best done with a boat and splitting hammer.
A wetsuit and scuba gear make the process easier as well.
Roads along this river are also mostly dirt roads.
The best time to go looking for these beautiful corals is during the dry season before winter.
When winter comes, the water can become quite cold.
One of the reasons Agatized Coral is also so popular is because of the shapes and colors they can come in.
There is a whole Facebook Group called the Florida Agatized Coral Connection, where you can view many examples of these fossils.
The sheer number and shapes one can find is amazing.
There are also a number of other related Facebook groups linked from this group that you can have a look at.
Agatized coral is becoming more and more sought after.
Any online search for this type of coral reveals many results for the trade of these on sites such as Etsy and Ebay.
The prices these corals fetch vary considerably according to what type they are, how much they have been processed, in which way they have been processed and how striking the colors are.
Agatized coral sales are not forbidden, but in time they may be, which will drive up prices even further.
If you want to gather these beautiful fossils, we suggest you do it while they are still plentiful and legal.
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