Aaron Widmar
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What Is Fordite? Turning Automobile Paint into Recycled Jewelry

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Fordite jewelry from automotive paint by the Fordite Queen on Etsy

A sample of what fordite jewelry looks like in the form of necklace pendants
Photo: The Fordite Queen on Etsy, used with permission

Beauty can be found in the most grimy, overlooked places–and all it takes to discover it is a little bit of elbow grease and creativity.

Did you know that automobile factories produce more than just cutting-edge vehicles and jobs for communities? Look closer and you’ll discover something more breathtaking than a paycheck or a gas-guzzling machine: fordite.

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The History of the Psychedelic Fordite Agate

Fordite automotive agate rough form

Fordite in its raw form
Photo: Wikipedia

Fordite–also known as Motor Agate, Detroit Agate, or “paint rock”–is a one-of-a-kind enamel material discovered in the depths of automobile manufacturing plants.

It’s created by layer upon layer of slag-like material formed from spray-painting cars by hand. Each time a new car got colored, the oversprayed paint gradually built up on the tracks and skids holding the vehicle’s frame. Those paint layers harden as the cars entered “ovens” to cure the paint on the frame. After being baked hundreds of times, this agate would become an obstruction and had to be removed by hand.

While fordite chunks didn’t look impressive to the average eye, people realized that it could be carved and polished into beautiful works of art. Interest began near Detroit and Chicago where the auto factories were, but since online markets have formed, fordite can be purchased around the country. And because factories now use an electrostatic process that doesn’t produce overspray, what fordite still exists is very valuable.

Recycled fordite first received mass attention when Cindy Dempsey of Urban Relic Design was interviewed by The New York Times, and since then many artisans have mastered fordite—many of which you can find selling their wares on Etsy (such as The Fordite Queen, Joan Madouse out of California). You can find fordite used in many different forms now–pendants, earrings, rings, paperweights, pen caps, and whatever else you can imagine.

Learn more about fordite here.

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  • Aaron WidmarSenior Editor

    Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing... See more articles by Aaron.