Fordite: Detroit's Agate

While these colorful, polished pieces resemble agate, and look like they were formed over millions of years of heat and pressure, their real history is far less old, and closer to our hearts and homes.

They’re Fordite, which is hardened layers of excess enamel paint from the car factories of the last century. 

During the manufacturing process, assembly line workers in the budding auto industry would spray the cars in excess, as a means of working as quickly as possible to keep up with the growing demand. Each car would drip it’s own color of enamel paint on the moving assembly line, and the layers of drip would be rolled into the drying oven with the vehicles themselves. Over a brief period of time, the various colors formed the layers you see in these specimens. 

Many of the colors are no longer used on vehicles and when looking at them, one can see the former spectrum of American roads and parking lots. 

At the time, some assembly line workers recognized their simple beauty and chipped off the layers to bring home. More recently as well, Fordite has seen resurgence from urban explorers and thrifty crafters. 

 While a piece of real agate represents the changing earth, in a piece of Fordite we can see the change that our world went through in a short period of time. 

Just over 100 years ago, gas powered automobiles were novelties and luxuries, and only produced in small quantities for the wealthy elite. In no time at all, innovative minds like Henry Ford and Alfred Sloan transformed the industry and the world into what we have today. With more than one car in every household, and vehicles serving as a necessity in American life.  

The byproducts of that innovation are big and small, from the national highway system to the tourism industry to the normal forty-hour American workweek. When looking at a piece of Detroit agate, its easy to look at each layer and imagine it being sprayed by a worker on an assembly line not even 100 years ago. While other minerals and gems are valued for their individuality and the millennia they took to form, pieces of Fordite are valued for their relationship to our own modern history and have become well known as a piece of byproduct Americana much like oil cans and license plates. 

Fordite: Detroit’s Agate Nail Polish:

Black, white and rainbow matte glitter in a clear nail polish

We think the glitter topper looks great over many of our solid colors, but KC’s most favorite combination is wearing it over top M-22, the holographic charcoal black nail polish, as shown below!

About the article author: Bryan Finnigan is a Michigander and a professional journalist and copywriter. He's passionate about history, the outdoors, and lifetime learning.

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