What is a thunderegg?

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Episode Number: 150

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Location Taken: US

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Welcome to CoreFacts, where we're always short on time and big on science. I'm Brian Campbell. Today's question is ...

What is a thunderegg?

Oregon's State rock, the "thunderegg," may be the best known gem material from Oregon. Thundereggs were not, as believed by some people, ejected from volcanoes, but formed in very soft and friable volcanic ash beds. Solutions containing silica permeated the cinders until favorable points for chalcedony deposition were achieved. Aggregations of chalcedony were deposited, but before the material could fully solidify, the center of the concretion split apart, possibly because of shrinkage, permitting the later introduction of additional materials. The resulting star-shaped centers of chalcedony may be in the form of agate, jasper, or in some cases, different varieties of opal. Thundereggs are used in a number of ways. One of the most common uses is to simply saw the thunderegg into two pieces, polish the sawed face of each half, and use it as a display or decorative piece; bookends are also made in this fashion. Also, the thundereggs are sawed into slabs from which calibrated and freeform cabochons are cut. Additionally, at least one firm in the United States is manufacturing gem spheres from thundereggs.

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