Few, if any, stones in the world are as demanding of the figure cutter as is fire agate. Working in an exacting medium over which he has little control, the artist must find the fire, intuit its depth, direction and variety, then work within these limits to create a piece both easily recognizable and aesthetically pleasing. The more realistic and natural looking the shape and dispersion of color, the more precious the work of art.
Joe Intili's "Exotic Fish" is an exquisite example of these elements in harmony. This magnificent rendering of a typical Cichlid incorporates a multitude of natural looking colors in a tiny milieu. Here we find a brilliant red caudal fin, a blue posterior fin and a multi-colored dorsal fin. Just as you might expect to see while snorkeling in tropical waters. The unique "bubbling" effect just beneath the surface, characteristic of the best Arizona fire agate, here simulates tiny, natural looking fish scales on the face and body. By chance, the fire in this particular stone had an unusual density. Using precise diamond tools for grinding, Joe took the surface down, layer by layer, to both mix and reveal the colors he wanted. Nowhere is this delicate process better illustrated than in the red stripe finely honed from head to tail on the fish. Among Intili's many talents is his unique ability to achieve specific colors and to preserve those colors through 7 grit levels (from 325 to 100,000) of diamond polishing. According to Beaudry, "Absolutely no one can match Joe Intili's ability to polish fire agate at the highest grit levels while holding the colors." This carving aptly demonstrates his point.
Footnote: Fire Agate enthusiasts maintain that each step in the development of a gem grade stone is as difficult as it is unusual. It's hard to mine, hard to read, hard to carve and, once completed, hard to part with. The story behind Joe Intili's Exotic Fish is a charming illustration. Beaudry initially acquired this piece of Slaughter Mountain rough from John Stevens around Christmas of 1991. Noteworthy for its size and shape, but not showing great potential for color, Bob nonetheless gave it to Joe Intili for a quick pre-form treatment so it could be sold at the Tucson Gem Show.
Several weeks later Phil
Rothengatter, a respected stone carver and goldsmith, encountered the still amorphic but
now fiery stone in Beaudry's collection. Phil was intrigued. He took the stone and half a
year later returned a spectacular free-form carving, affectionately dubbed "The
Gargoyle". But as chance would have it, the stone dropped on a tile floor and broke
into several pieces. Heartbroken at the loss, Beaudry took the pieces back to Joe Intili
to see what, if anything, could be salvaged. What emerged was an extraordinary, brilliant
blue cabochon and Joe Intili's "Exotic Fish"... arguably one of the finest gem
grade fire agate carvings in existence!
For more information or to discuss the available for-sale inventory, please call fireagate.com at 520-749-5500; FAX 520-760-0398 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Minimum purchase is $3000.00. Presentation and showings, for serious collectors or licensed gem dealers, are by appointment only. No inventory catalogue will be offered and pieces in the "Museum Collection" are not currently for sale.
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