We have heard plenty about vintage and recycled jewelry and accessories being more planet- and people-friendly (what with blood diamonds hard to regulate and the hazards of gold extraction being legion), but what about unique pieces made from former — and now outdated — car factory equipment waste?

Also called "motor agate" because it resembles the agate that is formed by geological processes, Fordite is a totally unique material that's a remnant of the automotive industry. In a backwards-looking version of upcycling, this limited-quantity material is a popular and human-created material that's used to make all kinds of interesting statement jewelry. 

Fordite jewelry

Fordite beads via LooseyGooseyBeads on Etsy.

Fordite was made accidentally. Before cars were painted as they are today with an automated, electrostatic process, they were hand-painted by people who sprayed layers of paint on metal vehicles. If you've ever spray-painted before, you know that the tiny droplets of paint get everywhere. In this case, the tracks and skids that the cars rested on got covered in vivid car colors as vehicles were sprayed — and then baked along with the cars to seal the color in. The skids were used over and over again, baked repeatedly (some up to 100 times), leaving multiple layers of super-hard sprayed paint behind. 

fordite ring

Huge Fordite Ring available on Etsy.

Eventually the paint layers would have to be removed, so that the skids could keep being used, and some autoworkers realized they had a really interesting material on their hands that could be cut and polished like a stone. And so, Fordite was born. 

fordite cufflinks

Stainless steel and Fordite cuff links from Urban Relic Design.

Like types of natural stone, there are varieties of Fordite, including separated color (like stripes) and varieties of color-on-color, including metallics and opaques, bleeding color layers, and more. 

According to the history page on Fordite.com, "Sadly, the techniques that produced this great rough years ago, are no longer in practice. Cars are now painted by way of an electrostatic process that essentially magnetizes the enamels to the car bodies. This leaves little, or no overspray. The old factory methods that created this incredible material are long gone." The old painting process ended in the 1970s, so there is a limited supply of Fordite, which hasn't been newly created in 40 years. 

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

What is Fordite?
Fordite, also known as motor agate, is an unusual relic of the automotive industry, not nature.