The home improvement store’s website features an “Empowerment Tools” demi-fine jewelry collection.
5 Things to Know About … Fordite
Though not actually a gemstone, the man-made material tells the story of American automotive history.
Even though it’s also sometimes referred to as “Detroit agate” or “motor agate” and it can be cut and polished, fordite is not a gemstone.
But that hasn’t stopped designers and brands from using the material, which looks like it could be a product of Mother Nature, in jewelry.
With its vivid waves of color that do indeed mimic natural agate and a backstory steeped in American history, I think fordite is a great alternative material to highlight in my “5 Things to Know About” series.
Read on to find out more about this “gem” and how it came to be.
1. Its story is a slice of American history.
Starting in the 1920s, auto manufacturers began painting car bodies using a hand-spraying technique to speed up the painting process, and overspray would accumulate in the paint bays.
Over time, layer upon colorful layer built up.
The pieces of enamel paint slag were repeatedly hardened in the ovens in which the cars went to cure the paint, according to Fordite.com, with some of the layers baked up to 100 times.
Eventually, the paint clumps got in the way of vehicle assembly and had to be removed. Luckily for us, groups of factory workers eventually started salvaging the material.
Some pieces of fordite have been cut and polished for use in jewelry, which Fordite.com says is done “with relative ease,” though it notes pieces vary in strength and should be treated with care.
According to an article about fordite in the spring 2016 edition of GIA’s Gems & Gemology, it takes about 997 layers of paint to build a 1-inch thick fordite slag specimen.
2. Material came from more than just the Ford plant.
The inspiration for the name is obvious—according to Gems & Gemology, fordite was first collected at Ford Motor Company in Michigan in the 1940s.
But the name the name now generally refers to any material composed of paint slag from various automotive plants.
For example, there’s material from the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky—though some prefer to call that by its own name, corvetteite—and Lincoln-Mercury paint from a Canadian plant.
Gems & Gemology notes fordite from the 1960s and 1970s comes in the boldest hues, since there was more demand for brightly colored cars then.
3. Supply is limited.
By the 1980s, car manufacturers had moved away from the hand-spray painting method. Now, they use an electrostatic process that magnetizes the enamels to car bodies, leaving little to no overspray.
This means, of course, no more paint buildup so the supply of fordite is limited to what’s already on the market.
Several sources noted there’s probably a lot stashed away in collections. A significant amount also was probably thrown out before workers started saving it.
But even with its limited supply, fordite still can provide an affordable option for jewelers, from $20 to several hundred dollars per piece, according to Gems & Gemology.
4. There are different types.
Since it varied by plant and by era, fordite is available in many different color combinations.
According to Fordite.com, the material is generally grouped according to how the layers fell and the color banding that resulted.
One focuses on colored layers regularly separated by a gray branding of primer.
The other groupings feature various degrees of color on color. One is comprised of only opaque and metallic paint in select colors from special color runs, while another has dripping and/or striped layers with occasional lace and orbital patterns or surface channeling.
Another group of fordite types features opaques and metallics with bleeding layers and, sometimes, pitting from when air bubbles developed as the layers formed.
(Visit Fordite.com for more information and examples of the layers.)
There are a number of brands and designers who have taken to fordite, loving the way the “gem” has such an interesting story to tell.
Stories are jewelry designer Eve Streicker’s ethos for her brand, Original Eve Designs, especially when it comes to the material she chooses, and fordite is a perfect match.
“When it comes to fordite, there are few other materials that so beautifully tell the story of their past,” she told National Jeweler.
“Fordite not only displays the changing colors used on cars in each layer of hardened, subtly sparkled paint, but also the history of the American automotive industry, which has transformed or disappeared in the Ford motor factories in Detroit.”
Jewelry designer Marla Aaron told National Jeweler she began to take notice of fordite after she saw it set in knife and gun handles.
Aaron emphasized how American and “poignant” fordite is.
“There’s something really special about taking something discarded and turning it into something precious,” she said, adding that she loves the colors and the material’s light weight.
Fashion brand Roland Mouret liked the pieces so much it used several in its New York Fashion Week presentation last fall, including Aaron’s statement earrings, which really popped on the runway.
Aaron said the brand was so taken with fordite that it had the nail artist create a pattern to match.
A government official said search crews “found the needle in the haystack” when they located the capsule belonging to Rio Tinto along an 870-mile stretch of road.
De Beers Institute of Diamonds provides the very best in diamond verification, education and diamond services.
De Beers is sharing over 130 years of experience and expertise through the De Beers Institute of Diamonds with a selection of courses.
The IJO also welcomed one new vendor member to its 13-member board, Brecken Farnsworth of Parlé Jewelry Designs.
It begins with a “t” and ends with a “c” and is imbued with warmth and positivity, Peter Smith writes.
The tiny capsule, which is believed to have fallen out of a truck, was lost somewhere along an 870-mile stretch of desert road.
The jeweler’s expansion plans include 20 to 30 more stores in North America and the Middle East over the next two to three years.
The NRF’s annual survey shows that consumer attitudes about how, or even whether, to celebrate Feb. 14 continue to evolve.
Executives from Fred Meyer Jewelers and Riddles Jewelers have filled the roles.
The trend forecaster and her guests explored unconventional jewelry designs, NFTs, AI art, and more during her Trendvision presentation.
The Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative provides diamond credit and mentorship to young brands helmed by BIPOC designers.
Rolex remained No. 1 while a brand known for its pilot watches slipped into the No. 5 spot.