How to transform old car paint into a thing of beauty

Are you interested in creating gemstone accessories that are not only visually appealing but also express your love for American auto manufacturing? Then you should consider working with a lesser-know gem named Fordite. Also called Detroit agate or motor agate, Fordite is created from enamel paint buildup that occurs when car parts are spray painted and baked. Fordite takes years to create, but the material can be manipulated with various hand and power tools to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

According to Eric Grundhauser for Atlas Obscura: "Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, American automobiles began being painted via spray techniques that produced large nuggets of excess paint, built up in layer after layer of color. When the cars’ coating would be heated to harden, these overspray deposits would harden right along with them, bringing them to an almost stone-like hardness. A 2013 article about fordite in The New York Times refers to this excess as 'enamel slag.'

Once these globs were sufficiently large enough to get in the way of the factory line, they would be broken off the bars and skids they were hanging from, and generally tossed away as waste. According to a history of the material on, a site created by Dempsey, some auto workers with an eye for upcycling these colorful remnants cured them even further and cut them just like gem rocks. With a quick polish, chunks of motor agate became just as lovely as any naturally occurring mineral. And certainly more colorful."

To learn more, read "The Anthropocene’s Best Gem Is Made Out of Old Car Paint" from Atlas Obscura.