The Roundup -

Alexander Resident Creates Unique Agate Art


December 5, 2018 | View PDF

One of Sandra's trout suncatchers. (Photo by Sandra LaRoque)

Sandra LaRoque has always loved rock hounding, especially for Montana Moss Agates. Before his death, in 1983, Sandra's grandfather, Ervin Bottke, would make jewelry and belt buckles occasionally with cut and polished stone agate slabs from his rock hounding trips. Sandra calls this lapidary slabbing. She followed in her grandfather's footsteps and now sells her own agate creations. She does not make jewelry and belt buckles but her lampshades and sun catchers are just as beautiful. For about ten years, now, Sandra has been slabbing and polishing agates. "I made my first lampshade in 2007. My creative ideas grew from there." Sandra said. "It takes a lot of patience, many hours and a lot of time."

According to Sandra, Montana Moss agates are found in the Yellowstone River basin. They were formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity. Sandra says "Most people don't know what agates are but can understand when I say petrified wood." Agates are actually agatized logs and limbs from the sequoia trees that covered the land back then, just like petrified wood only to the point of becoming an agate. That would be a hardness of 7 to 8, while diamond is a hardness of 10. There are also different grades of agate. They can have a low, medium or high grade with high being that they have more wood grain bands and they have more of what is called a scenery in them. After slabbing/cutting the agate in a lapidary rock saw that has a diamond tipped blade, Sandra puts the cut agate through four weeks of tumbling in four different grits of silicon carbide. Each batch gets rinsed and tumbled between a slightly rough grit and a fine polish grit until smooth and shiny. Sandra said, "To most people, an agate on the river bank looks like another rock. To collectors, we see that they aren't just a rock." More information on what an agate is can be found at Sandra sells her pieces mainly through FB at this time or by others who have seen a piece someone bought. Her window sun catchers hearts and crosses sell for $100. Her trout and walleye pieces go for $275 and her lamps sell for between $500 to $3,000 depending on the size. She also does lamp shades with antlers incorporated into them and lighted fireplace mantelpieces.

Sandra LaRoque is an agate artist in Alexander, North Dakota. (Photo by Sandra LaRoque)

Sandra was born in Williston, North Dakota. She grew up in Missoula, Montana and moved back to her grandparents' (Ervin and Jeanette Bottke) farm in Alexander, North Dakota in 1999. Her son, Payden LaRoque, is a junior at Alexander High School and helps hunt for agate too. Her parents, Gary and Margaret LaRoque, grew up in Alexander as well and graduated from Alexander High School when the Lewis & Clark Trail Museum was the school. Sandra LaRoque does not have a gallery yet for her pieces but her business, Rare Rock Agate Shop, has a Facebook page. A list and photos of her pieces for sale can be found at People who are interested in ordering a piece can connect with her on Facebook, call or text her at 701-770-1264.


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