Layers of dried paint harvested from old automobile factories is coveted as raw material for pendants, rings and other baubles, reports Mary M. Chapman in The New York Times (8/25/13). The material is known as "fordite" and it is a byproduct of "automakers’ now defunct practice of spray painting cars by hand. Overspray in the painting bays gradually accumulated on the tracks and skids on which vehicles rested … Over time, myriad colorful layers would build up."
Nobody seems to know why the material is called "fordite," as the term applies regardless of whether it comes from a Ford factory or someone else’s. It is sometimes referred to as "Detroit agate and motor agate." What’s clear is that it appeals to jewelry-makers and consumers alike. "It’s a fun and interesting piece of history, a slice of Americana," says Cindy Dempsey, who has been making fordite jewelry for about ten years now. "I’ve had people look at a piece and say, ‘That looks like a piece of the Ford Fairlane that I used to have.’"
Cindy first encountered "raw fordite in the mid-1970s" via a friend who worked at a Detroit auto factory. She took a piece, sanded it down, and "then topped it with varnish." It’s fordite’s harness that enables it to be "cut and polished," says fordite jeweler Kevin Gauthier. Fordite enthusiast Miranda Leaver cherishes an orange fordite ring because, she says, it "screams muscle car." Fordite production ended in the late 70s, when electrostatic painting pretty much eliminated overspray. So, fordite is a finite resource, perhaps adding to its allure.