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Getting familiar with WV Swirls and Their Patterns


By: Kevin Roberts

Ever sat and looked at any of the WV swirls you have sitting around and wondered what the heck is it? How do I tell who made it? Are they all in one big pile? Well in this article I am going to explain to you how I go about identifying those tough but very pretty beauty's we call WV swirls!

In this article I will discuss the 3 main companies’ which will include
Alley Agate, Ravenswood Novelty, and Champion Agate. We will be taking a look at what to look for in the pattering in each company. I would like to note that this is not the "be all end all" on how to Id WV swirls but rather something I picked up along the way and something I thought I would share with the community. Below are things I have found that help me in identifying and separating each company by pattern. Let's get started!


Alley Agate

While Alley Agate is one my favorite types they can be tricky to id even for experienced collectors as can any type of WV swirl! Alley's will usually have ribbons which ride along the surface not taking much of a dive in to the marble, dive meaning something I refer to as "Tunneling" See picture example below for the term "Tunneling".

Notice how the colored ribbon dives into the marbles matrix and looks like a transparent tunnel or tube and pops back out or maybe even dives back in. That is what I call Tunneling. This is a classic sign of Ravenswood not Alley. All marbles pictured below are in fact Ravenswood besides the middle one...




This does not mean it never happens on Alleys because I have several examples that do. When I do see a mib that has the "Tunnel Ribbon" effect I then go straight to colors and try and determine if the colors are right for Alley.

Alleys flames are usually easy to differentiate from other company's by how well defined the tips are, they usually come to a nice fine tip rather than taper off in to a chunky more fatter tip. See picture example below.

Notice the Ravenswood in the middle, notice how the Ribbon tunnels back in to the marble at the tips. Classic sign of Ravenswood. The Alleys on the end have nice fine pointy tips!

Alleys and Ravenswood

Striated ribbons or folds, rarely appear on Alley agates and is more commonly found on Champion Agates & Ravenswood which I will discuss later on in this article.


Striated ribbons or folds, rarely appear on Alley agates and is more commonly found on Champion Agates & Ravenswood which I will discuss later on in this article.


Ravenswood Novelty

I have covered some of what helps me in determining if a swirl is Ravenswood or not in the Alley section so let’s recap on some of what I covered already.

One of the key elements to identifying a Ravenswood pattern would be the "Tunneling/Diving" and the way the ribbons are sort of carved out looking. We know Alleys ribbons mainly ride on top of the surface for the most part and stop and will usually lack a fat base ribbon. Another sign of telling Ravenswood pattern is the folding. While almost all WV swirls can look very much alike, Ravenswood’s folds can look layered some times on the nicer examples. See picture example below. Note that Champion agates can also appear layered at times.

Notice how the folds look to be laying on top of each other rather than completely separated. Also note the very prominent "Diving Ribbons" in photos 1&2.


 RavenswoodRavenswoodChampion Agate           


I have noticed on the Ravenswood the color ribbons dive back in to the marble, where as a lot of Alleys just come to a sharp cut off and that's it, staying on the surface. I have also noticed that the nicer Ravens will have a transparent colored ribbon with little smaller ribbons running through out it that are a different color..,

Notice the two smaller blue ribbons running though out the mib, you can see in several pics where those little ribbons dive down into the marble where they stop on the surface.




Striation on Ravenswood is not an uncommon trait, as I stated before you are less likely to see this on Alley Agates and more commonly seen on Ravenswood and Champion. I am going to try and describe striation the best I can and what to look for. Imagine using a paint brush and doing a nice even stroke, why the paint is still wet you can still see the fine lines made by the hairs on the brush, now just imagine that on the base or colored ribbon on a marble. When I say "Base Ribbon" I am referring to the big ribbon that folds and twist around that is made up of the base color (this will not generally apply to transparent based mibs). You then have colored ribbons that either lay on the surface of the base ribbon or might even trace the base ribbon or both, it can vary from mib to mib. See picture examples below.

Notice on the first mib that the base color is white and traced by a colored ribbon. Also notice the blue striation that appears to be tracing the blue colored ribbon, almost as if the colored ribbon is feathering out into the lavender. Photo #2 shows more of this striated pattern I am referring to, notice the lighter colored tan ribbon laying in the center of the base ribbon, it is very striated.




Above are some traits I have noticed with some of the Ravenswood that set them apart from other WV swirl company's, when you start looking at the more common types iding them can be more difficult and sometimes it's just not possible to tell.

Champion Agate

Now moving on to Champion Agates and the last type I will be covering in this article let me state that these can be very tricky and some are very close to a Ravenswood. Sometimes looking at the glass quality here can make the difference in telling Ravenswood and Champion apart. Of course there are many other factors when iding a WV swirl but this article is about pattern!

Champion Agates made some very nice mibs, some are very busy and full of colors. They too like the Ravenswood can commonly have striated ribbons. One of the keys to iding a Champion Agate pattern wise is how much clear it has when it is a color based mib. This does not mean just because a swirl has clear that it is Champion. The second thing is, most Champions have a nice wide base ribbon and will some times show a "Two Finger" pattern. Some people use the term "wadded up" due to the fact that they can look like a wadded up piece of paper. But don't let that fool you, Ravenswood and several other company's can look the same way.

Below are some pictures of Champion Agates. Notice in the first picture the striation and clear showing, also note the nice wide base ribbon. Photo#2 has what I call the "Two Fingers" where the base ribbon splits in two and meets back to its self. Also note the striation where the top "Finger" ends. Photo#3 Notice the "Two Fingers" showing again along with the clear. Photo#4 illustrating yet again the "Two Fingers". Photo#5 is illustrating just how close Ravenswood and Champion can be.

Champion Agate  Champion Agate Champion AgateChampion Agate Champion Agate


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