Every time I get a request for an agate order, my heart does a little happy dance. They are such a gorgeous wonder of nature! However, they can also be tricky little buggers to write on with a dip pen! Over the years, I've tried different methods and have settled into a simple process that works well for me. Please let me know if you need any help!
AGATE PREP: I clean each slice with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils. I am then careful not to touch the surface of them after they have been cleaned (hello, finger oils!). If the agate is not clean, the ink will bead up and not stick well as you write.
INK: The ink must be an ink that will dry on non-porous surfaces. Not all ink will. For example, if you try to write on agate with sumi ink, it will smear right off even after hours of dry time. For dip pen calligraphy on agate, depending on the color needed, I use: Bleed Proof White, Dr. Ph Martin Iridescent Ink, or Ziller Inks.
NIB: This part you will have to experiment with on your own as each of us has a different hand. In this video, I'm using the Hunt 22B but I also like the Brause EF66 for agate. I normally try both with the ink and see what is working better for me.
HAIRLINES: I find that I get the best hairlines if I have less ink on my nib. After dipping, I tap as much ink off my nib as I can. When my nib is fully loaded with ink, I find the transitions from shade to hairline to be difficult to control.
FINAL TOUCH UP: I often go back and do some refining of my writing as you see me do here with the "Olivia" slice.
SEALING: I don't do anything to them after letting the ink dry. If I do mess up on the writing and I need to start over, it takes rubbing alcohol and some serious elbow grease to get it off. I don't think any of the event guests are going to be sporting rubbing alcohol and a rag! They survive just fine as place cards (now, for use as a coaster, then I would look into some sort of final protective layer to keep glasses from scraping the writing).
SHIPPING: Make sure you put a layer of paper between each piece of agate and pack them tightly in the box. Wrap it all up and give the box a shake. If you feel movement in the box, you need to add more padding. If the slices rub against each other, the ink will scrape off.
I hope that is helpful! I'd love to hear your tricks if you have found something that works well!