Years ago, the American automotive industry was an unparalleled success not only in productivity, but also in the quality of their beautiful car designs. Unbeknownst to these automotive designers, they were also creating something beautiful that would last long after the processes they pioneered went extinct. Fordite (or Motor Agate, or Detroit Agate) as it has become known, was created by the process of hand-spraying cars with enamel-paint. A byproduct of the process, paint slag called “rough” was baked in the ovens, which hardened the automotive paint, creating layered slabs which crafty autoworkers realized could easily be polished, much like the naturally occurring agates they so resembled. Since this process has long been , these remaining stones have found a particular following, as they can never be created again.
Johnny Strategy, who documented much of the story for Colossal, writes, “Old car factories had a harmful impact on the environment, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, land and water. But it wasn’t all ugly. Oddly enough, one of the by-products of car production was Fordite, also known as Detroit agate. The colorful layered objects take their name from agate stones for their visual resemblance. But instead of forming from microscopically crystallized silica over millions of years, Fordite was formed from layers of paint over several tens of years. Back in the day, old automobile paint would drip onto the metal racks that transported cars through the paint shop and into the oven. The paint was hardened to a rock-like state thanks to high heats from the baking process. As the urban legend goes, plant workers would take pieces home in their lunch pails as a souvenir for their wife or kids.” (via mymodernmet, fordite.com, colossal)