Book review: Studies on Agates, by Terry Moxon

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Jon Trevelyan (UK)

Terry Moxon likes his agates. It is easy to see his enthusiasm and it is just as easy to appreciate it from this short book on the science of these colourful minerals. However, his is not just a casual interest. He has been involved in their study for 35 years and, for nine of these, has been a research visitor investigating them at the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University.

Moxon’s intention is to introduce the scientific techniques used to examine agate over the last 20 years and to discuss the conclusions that can be drawn from the investigations carried out by these means. His stated audience is lapidary and mineral collectors, as well as scientifically-orientated members of the general public. However, I suspect that university undergraduates would be better able to appreciate the book, as he does not pull his academic or intellectual punches. (The chemistry is well beyond this reviewer!) Having said that, the book is nicely written and, when he can, Moxon uses relatively simple language. In addition (and somewhat strangely), the book still has a coffee table feel to it. The illustrations of polished agate are often stunning and make it worth owning the book just to look at them.

It is clear that his current obsession is the genesis of agate, a subject that the article opposite clearly shows still has a lot of mileage in it: there is no satisfactory answer yet to the question of how it is formed. The final chapter of the book deals with this topic, but in much greater depth and detail than the article. Therefore, if this interests you, the book is a must. If you like and/or collect agates, it is worth thinking about buying it. However – remember – it is not a lazy read about a pretty mineral. It is a well written and illustrated scientific book on a fascinating bit of geology.

Studies on Agate: Microscopy, Spectroscopy, Growth, High Temperature and Possible Origin, by Terry Moxon, Terra Publications, Doncaster (2010), 96 pages (paperback), ISBN: 978-0952851219

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