Fordite: Fossilized Finishes From Detroit's Golden Age

Fordite (also known as Motor Agate) makes the perfect jewelry for any car nut. Hard as rock but structured as intricately as the skin of an onion, Fordite was formed when accumulated layers of enamel paint overspray were repeatedly baked in automakers' paint-drying ovens, then knocked off the skids & supports to be dumped as worthless slag.

That was then; this is now! The old paint-spraying booths have been replaced by electrostatic body coating chambers that virtually eliminate overspray. The worthless slag of the past is now a valuable and vanishing raw material jealously hoarded... and priced accordingly. 

Though most Fordite hails from Detroit (the Motor City) and its once-mighty network of auto plants, this incredible material could once be found around most any auto plant anywhere in the world – with the proviso that auto body painting was of the traditional, low-tech, hand-sprayed variety.

It's also possible to determine where a piece of Fordite was created: “Domestic” Fordite usually displays layers of matte gray primer paint sandwiched between layers of bright, colorful enamel.

So-called “Ohio Fordite” originated at the Big Three automakers' van plants: earlier samples feature cool pastel shades and warm earth tones while pieces from the psychedelic 60s and 70s are suffused with that era's more trippy colors.

These days, Fordite is an increasingly rare commodity. Once the word got out that Motor Agate could be worked like its natural namesake, prices zoomed and scroungers salvaged slag heaps for the precious nuggets. Supplies got even tighter once old, outdated auto plants were demolished and redeveloped.

Though the glory days of Fordite “mining” have come and gone, a number of craftsmen continue to work large lumps of Fordite into a variety of eye-poppingly beautiful jewelry pieces.

Sliced thinly and polished as one would a vintage auto's body, Fordite displays the frozen history of past times seen through the lens of popular automobile paint jobs. If you love cars, Fordite is a great way to wear your hear on your sleeve... or neck, fingers, shirt-cuffs and so on. (images via Laughing Squid, Urban Relic Design, Camali Design, Betsy Bensen, and Fissureprice)