Agate Mortar and Pestle (1/3)
There are three unique agate mortar and pestles at A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum. The largest mortar measures three centimeters in diameter at the base, while the matching pestle measures five centimeters in length. This mortar and pestle set is a light brown color with translucent areas. The pestle is lighter than the mortar. Both are cut from agate, which gives the set a marbled and inconsistent color pattern. The mortar is a rounded bowl on the inside, but the outside edges form an octagonal shape. Each end of the pestle is rounded; one end of the pestle is smaller in diameter than the other by four and one half centimeters.
The mortar and pestle has been used in laboratories for centuries for grinding and crushing various substances. This mortar and pestle is still in use for grinding powders for X-ray diffraction. The mortar is shaped like a bowl in order to hold a certain amount of the substance to be ground. The pestle is then used to mash and grind the substance in the bowl until the desired consistency is reached. The agate mortar and pestle is used in circumstances where cross contamination must be avoided. This is because agate is one of the finest, most non-porous natural materials available for a grinding surface. Bacteria, contaminants, and other particles cannot penetrate the material.