I'm an agate collector, 48 years old, married to Annette and we have two beautiful kids from 15 and 17 years old. I've been collecting minerals for more than 35 years now; the last 25 years just agates.
I started with my father collecting stone age artefacts in our neighbourhood. Then we red an article on mineral collecting in Germany, Idar-Oberstein, which was and still is the main Mineral Capital of Europe. It lies roughly between Luxembourg and Frankfurt in the south-western part of Germany.
In Idar-Oberstein one can find a lot of stone-cutters and mineral warehouses. Also the Main Street is full of mineral shops with minerals, fossils and jewellery.
The fact that right here in the middle of Germany lies this village is not quit accidental. Before the beginning of the Christian Era the Celts searched here for agates. Later the Romans and other people who lived there searched for agates on a commercial base till shortley after the W.W. II.
During the late 1830's a lot of peolple from the Idar-Oberstein area moved to Brasil to make a better living in farming. By accident they found the Brazilian agates on their fields; they send it to their relatives in Idar-Oberstein and that's why the gemstone bussines is still going on.
As I said before, me and my parents visited Idar-Oberstein and found some nice geodes with amethyst, smokey quartz and calcites. Agates where considered waste... Later we knew better. After a coupple of years we found so many cristals I decided to collect agates only. Since then the agate is my main collecting item.
Agates around Idar-Oberstein are found in the so called Rotliegend, in basalt flows from the Permian age. These flows produce a lot of different types of agates in very different places. The best finds one can make in the quarries around Idar-Oberstein. Some are really famous like the Setz Quarry, the Vollmersbach Quarry and the Bernhardt Quarry. Also the quarry near Freisen is famous for it's agates and smokey quartz with goethite crystals. Unfortunately these quarries are closed now.
The only quarry where collecting is permitted after working hours for a small fee is the Juchem Quarry. This quarry produces now and then large geodes and agates. All of them really exceptional and not like other specimen in the area.
Since collecting became dangerous during the years, because so many people started collecting, I started collecting on the fields and vine yards. Here the farmers plough the land and every year one can find agates on these fields. There are a lot of area's/fields where agate collectors are searching; they lies mainly in an East-West band with Idar-Oberstein in the middle.
I usually look for jaspers, agates and jasp-agates around Idar-Oberstein and sagenetic agates further east near Alzey.
Other places in Europe where agates can be found are Scottland, the Tzech Republic, Poland and France. In other countries small area's exist where agates are found, but these four countries and Germany are the main agate producing countries.
Germany has four area's with agates.
The Idar-Oberstein area,
Saxony in the former Eastern Germany around St. Egidien where beautiful thundereggs can be found and
the Black Forrest in the south-western part of Germany where thundereggs are found around the 'Lierbachtal'.
The last area are more or less the river beds with gravel pits and the old river beds were deposits of agates from the agate bearing mountains scattered over Germany are found. Some of these agates can be traced back to some places collectors are still finding the same types today! These river beds are lying in the northern and western part of Germany.
Even in the Netherlands, where I live, we find agates in our gravel pits along the Rhine and Meuse river.
Check my website for pictures from some of the agates. I hope you like the story about agate collecting in Europe.
One cannot compare it with the mineral collecting in the States, because here in Europe lots of people are living in the agate area's and the farmers aren't keen on collectors waliking on their farmlands in the spring when the little plants are growing after the rains had come. These rains are good for the plants as well for the agates to wash the dirt of!
But now and then a collector manage to find a great find which is published in one of the Mineral Magazines.
I'll be happy to give you more information when I can.