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Agates of Cambay


Agates are semi precious stones which display a wide spectrum of colours and fancy images. One of the most interesting gems of collectors delight, agate is a type of microcrystalline quartz falling under the general category chalcedony. They are believed to have been formed under earth’s cavities out of volcanic action and extreme climatic conditions


Agate/ Akik – Occurrence and diagnostic features 

Agate is a variety of chalcedony, which is the general term applied to fibrous cryptocrystalline quartz varieties. It is a mineral generally of secondary origin, forming in cavities and veins by deposition from meteoric groundwater containing gelatinous silica from the weathering of silicate minerals. It can also form by deposition from late hydrothermal solutions at or near the earth's surface under conditions of low temperature and low pressure. Agate is commonly associated with siliceous volcanic, occurring as vein or vesicle filling. It occurs as a petrifying agent in fossil wood and bone. Agate is frequently found lining or filling rock cavities and fissures, sometimes forming geodes. 

Agate is characterized by its occurrence, hardness, fracture, specific gravity, refractive index and luster. Agates as well as Chalcedony are a variety of cryptocrystalline quartz gemstones composed of layers of quartz, sometimes of different colors. Agate usually occurs as rounded nodules or veins. The layers of quartz are often concentric. The composition of agate varies greatly, but silica is always predominant, usually with alumina and oxide of iron. The colors and "scenes" in agate are endless. While agate is usually an inexpensive stone, some varieties or special stones with very unusual scenes or markings can be quite expensive.

Agate/Akik – Occurrence and Sources 

Akik or agate is the general term applied to different varieties or Carnelians, and includes various forms of Chalcedonic silica found either underground in mines, in beds of rivers or on hill slopes. Different varieties of agates are known by different names differing in color and luster. Agate word is derived from ‘Achates’, a river in Sicily on the banks of which it is said to have been found now known as agate or Dirillo, well known in early times for its agates. The word again a derivative of the Arabic word Akik, a name for agate which means riverbed.

Types of Agate:

There are many types of agates. The common ones are: 

  • Fortification agate – one of the most common kinds of agate, which has bands crystallized in a concentric manner following the shape of the cavity. 
  • Water line agate – It is formed after the extra water in the silica settling layer by layer drains out. The orientation is controlled by gravity. 
  • Shadow Agate – It is an agate which has alternating translucent and opaque bans. 
  • Tube Agate – sometimes, tube-like projections form in the silica gel, which weathers away or leave hollow tubes that fill in with silica. 
  • Eye Agates – In some cases, the silica gel predominantly drains leaving only a droplet that beads up in the cavity, from which crystal growth further continues. 
  • Plume agate – these are filamentous growth that resembles feathers 
  • Geode agate – An agate with a hollow centre and a crystalline outer fill. 
  • Moss Agate – it is a cluster of mineral inclusions which resemble a landscape. 
  • Seam Agate – these form in cracks in host rock in parallel rows


These beautiful stones have been mined and polished at Khambat or Cambay in the western state of Gujarat at least since 1,500 AD. Even though the Cambay area does not have mineral deposits, the stone is brought from the Rajpipla Hills about 200 kilometres away.

Some archaeological records show that this gemstone work may have been happening in this region for 4,000 years — since the Harappan era. From Gujarat, these stones travel to popular markets across the Middle East and Africa — they are used in everything from making rosaries to jewellery and home decorations. 

The Carnelian stone is renowned as the ‘most pious stone’ in the world, no doubt because of its extensive use in rosaries. While the blood-coloured stone is most popular, Agates of Cambay also come in yellow, moss, rose, black, white and grey hues.

Cambay came into the picture towards the end of 15th century and the start of 16th century. Akik industry assumed importance during the rule of sultans of Gujarat when it reached the zenith of prosperity. The main market of agate being outside India, it was not only essential for the finished products to be brought to a convenient marketing center on sea but also for the development of the industry to be located near some port to facilitate the export. It was equally necessary for the raw material required to be close to the place of manufacture. Cambay was a flourishing and chief center of trade and commerce. This prosperity of the town naturally gave impetus to the growth of many industries including Akik and other precious and semi precious stones.

The fate of Akik industry seemed to have been linked with the rise and fall of different places that grew into importance as seaports or centers of maritime trade at different periods of history. In Gujarat various places came into prominence as centers of trade and commerce at one time or another according to their importance as seaports. At one time it was Bharuch, at another time it was Vallabhi and still another time it was Surat or Cambay/ Khambhat. Finally it was at Khambhat that Akik industry reached the pinnacle or prosperity and survived till present times despite depression and competition to which it was later subjected.

In the beginning of 17th century many Akik craftsmen of Cambay were staying at Goa where they had their own locality and shops. Forty years later an Abyssinian merchant by the name of Baba Ghor started Akik factory at Limodra near Rajpipla where the raw material was available in plenty. For the export of finished products to the African coast he had to resort to a seaport, which was Cambay. Here the Abyssinian merchant seemed to have started a lucrative business in agates under the supervision of his brother Baba Abbas. They later shifted all their business to Cambay. Export in Akik got boost up when Cambay became a principal port of embankment by Hajj pilgrims to Mecca. The pilgrims carried with them their agate beads, which were highly valued as articles of sanctity.

During the 18th century agate trade was referred to as one of the most important of the Cambay industries. Some of the articles made at Cambay stones for signets and rings were said to be worth double their weight in gold. Bowls, spoons, handles of swords, daggers, knifes etc. were of great value. Agate industry reached the pinnacle of prosperity during the 16th century and continued its importance till 18th century. During the 19th century the agate trade fluctuated but did not really decline. But with the passage of time and change in consumer habits and competition from other countries the industry suffered a setback. Moreover, the Cambay port got silted, which made it impossible for the larger vessel to reach the harbor and as a result it lost all its former glory. During the 20th century due to decline of Cambay as an important center of trade, industry and export, diversion of trade channels with the opening of rail route from Bombay to Ahmedabad , and increase in competition from cheap synthetic stones agate industry declined.


District Profiles

  • Name: Khambhat
  • Area: 2,932.9 km2
  • Population: 99,164
  • Literacy: 78%

How to get there:

  • Airport: The nearest major airport is Vadodara Airport (BDQ / VABO). This airport has domestic flights from Vadodara, India and is 76 km from the center of Khambhat, India.
  • Railway Station: Khambhat is connected with Anand (district headquarters) by Railway Line. Total 8 trains depart per day for Anand.
  • Highway: Khambhat is connected with Tarapur, Dharmaj, Vataman, Petlad, Nadiad, Anand, and Dali by Regional roads.


Value Chain

Supply Chain

Raw Materials: 

  • Agate

Resources/ Inputs: 

  • Labour

Method of Production:

The main sources of raw material are the mines located on the slope of the hill known as Ratanpore Hill or Baba Ghori Hill. At the mine mouth, the stones are chipped and classified into three grades, good “tukdi”, medium “gar” and low “khadya”. Truck or rail from Jagadia to Cambay carries them. The Akik dealers, who are also the “karkhanedars”, purchase that from the mining contactors or from the cooperative society of which they are the members. They then store them in go-downs in gunny bags. 

(a)    Sun heating 

The stones and pebbles have high moisture content. Before firing they are left in the open in the sun on corrugated iron sheets for a period of 1 ½ to 2 months. This is done because if the stones are directly baked they will crack. 

(b)    Firing 

Two methods are followed for firing: 
Bhasal: The stones are placed in a trench two feet deep and heated with heat ash and goat or cow dung cake. Heating is done for 3 days. 
Handa: The stones are placed in cracked and holed earthenware pots. They are heated with goat or cow dung cakes [Heating is done for 12 hours]. Rajpipla Carnelian needs this treatment. The rest are worked upon directly without any heating. Heating brings out the real color of the agate. The temperature at which this change takes place is in between 300 degree centigrade to 400 degree centigrade. With too low a temperature, the stone becomes salmon colored (pinkish orange) and in case the heat is excessive, the color is lost entirely. After baking among brown stones, the light tint brightens into white and the darker tint depends into chestnut, while maize yellow takes a rosy tint, orange turns into red as iron oxide spreads evenly. Stones which in their raw form appears cloudy brown or yellow now distinctly marked by clear bands of white and red.

(c)    Cutting and shaping the stone 

Stones which are baked properly cut in the required shape on iron spike known as “sink” with “shingadi”, a buffalo horn headed hammer. The iron spike is 2-3 feet in length and is fixed at an angle of 60 degree in the ground. Against the edge of the spike is kept the part of stone to be chiseled into the required shape. The workers squatting on the pieces of gunny bags strike the stone with the hammer very deftly and carefully. The striking is called “tappa”. This removes the outer shell and preliminary shaping is done. To protect the fingers from injury the workers wrap them in cotton bandages called “anguthia”. 

(d)    Roughing and smoothening the surface 

The stones after they are chiseled into desired shapes flat, round, triangular, quadrangular, hexagonal etc. are handed over to “ghasiya” for smoothening of the surface by grinding on emery wheel. This work is done by two methods: 

1. By machine 

In this method, the “emery” or carborandum wheel working with the electric motor of ½ H.P. is rotated in circle. The wheel is about 12” inch diameter and 1 ½ “thick. If the articles are rough and thick, the wheel is given greater momentum and less if thin. The distance between the electric motor and emery wheel is about 10-15 feet. The wheel is fixed to a wooden plank 6' to 8' in length at a height of about 3” to 4”. This wooden frame is known as “charak”. Two or three workers can operate at a time. The workers keep one small earthen vessel filled with water by their side and articles are dipped in water before they are put on the emery wheel. If water is not used, the wheel moves more rapidly giving better “wadh” or cut in greater output. But it releases tiny particles of dust, which while breathing, goes inside the lungs and causes T.B. as the “ghasiyas” are given wages on piece rate basis, they do not dip the stones in water and thereby get greater output of seven or eight pieces per minute. But by doing this they render themselves liable to this fatal disease, which is, reported to claim three to five deaths every year. 

2. By hand 

In this method the entire process is done by hand. Emery stone or corundum or carborandum from which the emery wheel is made, is known as “Kurund” in Hindi and “samado” in Gujarati. The stone grayish black in color is consumed in large quantities by the cutters and polishers of stone, both precious and semiprecious. Formally the lapidaries at Cambay used to purchase this stone, powder it and prepare the polishing disc, by adding it to seed Lac in required proportion. But in course of time, the price of emery stone went so high, that it was cheaper to utilize ready-made emery wheels instead. Polishing discs made from emery are comparatively cheaper than the one made from the stone, which they formerly used to purchase from the market.

In addition to the emery discs, copper or wooden plates were also used- the former for polishing very hard stones, while the later for softer ones. 

(e)    Polishing 

The articles, which are roughed and smoothened on emery wheel, are polished to give them shine and luster. The people involved in this activity are polishers known as “Opiya” derived from the word “op” which means shine or luster. Various methods of hand polishing were used in the past: 

  • “Saran” or lapidary's wheel 
  • “Pattimar “or polishing against a wooden board 
  • Leather bag

To Market:

Agate beads are the chief products, which command a good market in the countries of Middle East and African coast. Other agate products are flower vases, ash trays, bangle, mortar and pestle necklaces, paper weights, buttons, rosaries, lamp shades, earrings, rings, bracelets, key chains, bowls, cufflinks, pendants etc. 



Central Government schemes

  • SFURTI (Scheme of Funds for Regeneration of Traditional Industries)

    Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI) is an initiative by Ministry of MSME to promote Cluster development. Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is the nodal Agency for promotion of Cluster development for Khadi.

State Schemes

  • Gujarat Matikam Kalakari & Rural Technology Institute (GMK&RTI)

    The RTIG is established in 1979 by The Gujarat State as Service Institute and is the first of its kind in country. Registered under Society Registration Act 1860 and Bombay public Trust Act. 1950. Under the restructuring policy of Boards and Corporatios, Gujarat Matikam Kalkari Board is merged in Rural Technology Institute vide Industries & Mines Department GR No. IAF-1490-243-KH1 dt. 12-08-2008. After the merger of Gujarat Matikam Kalakari Board in Rural Technology Institute now the Institute is renamed as “Gujarat Matikam Kalakari & Rural Technology Sansthan”. The endeavor of the Institute is to coordinate the efforts to promote the concept of appropriate Technology for the Rural Development in general and for the benefit of rural artisans and cottage Industries in particular.

  • Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), Gandhinagar

    EDII has helped set up 12 state-level exclusive Entrepreneurship Development Centres and Institutes. One of the satisfying achievements, however, was taking entrepreneurship to a large number of schools, colleges, science and technology institutions and management schools in several states by including entrepreneurship inputs in their curricula. In view of EDII’s expertise in entrepreneurship, the University Grants Commission had also assigned EDII the task of developing curriculum on entrepreneurship and the Gujarat Textbook Board assigned to it the task of developing textbooks on entrepreneurship for 11th and 12th standards.

  • Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC)

    Main role of the GIDC is to identify locations suitable for industrial development and create industrial estates with infrastructure such as roads, drainage, electricity, water supply, street lights, and ready-to-occupy factory sheds. The infrastructure of certain estates has been built for specific industries; there is an electronics estate at Gandhinagar, ceramics and manufacturing estates in Bhavnagar, chemical estates at Vapi, Ankleshwar, Panoli, Nandesari, Naroda.