When people think of leftover plastic, we usually think of discarded garbage in landfills, or pollutants floating around in the water. Rarely do we see old plastic and decide to turn it into jewelry. Yet this is exactly what happened in Detroit after the discovery of a substance known as “fordite.”
Fordite, which is sometimes called “Detroit agate,” is a hard, multi-layered stone made from layers of paint deposits from car factories. Fordite today is rare, because of the implementation of downdraft paint booths and more efficient paint application processes. This prevents paint from piling up and solidifying like they did in the past.
Today, it is a sought-after material by jewelers, who buff and polish the bits of plastic into a high shine.
Where Does Fordite Come From?
Detroit was a major industrial town in the past. The city was filled with car factories that assembled and painted the vehicles to be then shipped off to dealerships. Workers would spray the paint onto the cars, making sure to cover every inch of the exteriors.
As the excess paint drips off molding, the paint pools on the metal racks which were used to transport cars to the oven. As the paint bakes to cure and harden it, the small pools of drip solidify as well.
As the years pass and more cars go through the factory’s paint booths, more layers of paint are added to the fordite. Eventually, this forms a rock-solid mass that is hard enough to cut and polish in a similar fashion to gemstones.
The resulting stone has a distinct layered effect, forming unique, rainbow colored swirls. Car paint is made of resin and enamel, which turns into an agate-like stone when layered and baked together.
The most sought after pieces of fordite were the ones that came from the 1960s. This is because in the 1940s, cars typically featured only black or brown enamel, which resulted in boring looking fordite. In the 1960s, however, colorfully painted cars became very popular, giving rise not only to a multitude of bright colors, but also to special effects paints with metallic or glittery finishes.
Fordite is an incredibly popular material used in jewelry. Their rarity and unique look have proven to be very profitable. It is definitely an interesting piece to hang from your neck and lobes.