Lake Superior Agates – Read This Guide

What makes the Lake Superior agate unique in comparison to other agate stones is that they were stained by the iron found in the Lake Superior region over the years. In turn, this iron was able to create very unique red bands, formed by lava eruptions that happened more than hundreds of millions of years ago. Today, the Lake Superior agate stones are considered the official stone of Minnesota, but you can find them in other states as well, mainly Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin, also known as the Iron Range region. After the glacial movement more than 10,000 years ago, these agates were spread across the area as far as the Mississippi river.

How to identify Lake Superior agates

To identify a Lake Superior agate, it isn’t all that hard, as you will have to be on the look out for a few specific characteristics, which are outlined below.

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Color – Lake Superior agates are known for their rich red, orange and yellow colors, which, as mentioned, is due to the iron oxidation that leeched into the rock as it formed. This oxidation was able to give it a beautiful array of colors, and the color combination will wildly vary depending on how much oxidation occurred. Aside from these vibrant colors, you can also find specks of grey, black and/or grey. When you are looking on shore when agate hunting, look for a rock that’s shiner than most. It’s recommended that you shuffle your feet to go to another surface layer to see the wetter rocks or attempt to spray the rocks on the surface with a spray bottle. When wet, they are much easier to see.

Size – As for size, Lake Superior agates can come in a variety of sizes; however, most of what you will find will average about a half inch in diameter. Very large Lake Superior agates are rare but some as large as 20+ pounds have been found before.

Waxy Feel – A Lake Superior agate, much like many agates, will have a very smooth and waxy feeling. If you rub it with your thumb, it will almost feel as if someone already waxed it. After a while, you will get so good at it, you will know right away when you pick it up.

Where to find Lake Superior agates

Most of your Lake Superior agates will, of course, be found along the shores of Lake Superior, hence, the name. The most popular spot, however, is the northern shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. You can also find them in nearby lakes, rivers and streams, mainly in loosened gravel along the shore. Experts recommend that you hunt along Highway 61 in Minnesota, particularly along the lake shore, but there are other places as well.

Some of the best places to find Lake Superior agates in the region include the following:

  • Agate Island
  • Artist’s Point
  • Beaver Bay
  • Brighton Beach
  • Brule River
  • Burlington Bay
  • Chequamegon Bay
  • Cobblestone Beach
  • Crisp Point
  • Cut Face Creek Wayside
  • Flood Bay Wayside Rest Area
  • Five Mile Rock Beach
  • Gooseberry Falls
  • Grand Marais
  • Horseshoe Bay
  • Iona’s Beach Scientific & Natural Area
  • Little Girl’s Point
  • Paradise Beach
  • Temperance River State Park

Instead of boring you with a description of each, just plug these names into Google or Google Maps to see where it’s located. Each of these locations should yield some agate stones if you look hard enough.

Types of Lake Superior agates

There are many types of Lake Superior agate, which are classified by the type of striation that covers the surface. One of the most common types is known as a fortification agate, which if you look closely, resembles that of a historical fort wall. A rarer agate, such as an eye agate, is exactly as it sounds. It looks like a pupil and was formed very early in the layering process, forming a circle resembling that of an eye. If you ever find a Lake Superior agate with more than one eye, it’s much more valuable than just one.

The types of Lake Superior agate are as follows:

  • Copper Replacement Agate
  • Crystal Inclusion
  • Dendritic Agate
  • Eye Agate
  • Floater Agate
  • Flower Channel
  • Fortification Agate
  • Fragmented Membrane Agate
  • Geode Agate
  • Limonite Banding
  • Mosaic Agate
  • Moss Agate
  • Paint Agate
  • Peeler Agate
  • Plume Agate
  • Quartz Banded Agate
  • Saganite Agate
  • Seam Agate
  • Smokey/Amethyst
  • Stalactitic Agate
  • Sun Blead Agate
  • Tube Agate
  • Vein Agate
  • Water Level Agate
  • Whorl Agate

How much are Lake Superior agates worth?

Most Lake Superior agates aren’t worth all that much. If you shop Etsy, eBay or some off-the-wall retailer online, you will see that you can get a smaller 4-8 ounce bag for less than $20.

For instance, on Etsy, multiple 1-pound bulk lots that would set you back about $30 to $60, depending on the seller.

As mentioned, most agates are quite small, but you can find much larger agates, which tend to be rarer. If you want a larger Lake Superior agate, say, one that weighs more than one pound, then you could pay much more, usually well into the $500 to $2,000 range. 3 to 4-inch pieces can cost $200 to $300, depending on the quality, colors and seller.

Smaller ones won’t be worth all that much, but if you can find one larger than three inches, you could have something pricey on your hands.

How old are Lake Superior agates?

Lake Superior agates were formed by volcanic activity along the what-is-now the Lake Superior Shore more than 1.2 billion years ago. During this time, gas pockets in the molten lave filled with many mineral deposits, such as iron, quartz and calcite, as the years passed. The pockets filled with quartz-rich deposits then eventually created the bands you see on the stones today. As these stones were freed from ice and lava stone during the Ice Age, they were swept to where you find them today.

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About Me

Hi! I'm Lauren, and I run Moonlight Gems AZ. I'm an avid crystal collector and would love to share my expertise with you.