Also known as the “Sleeping Beauty of the Gem World” because of its spectacular display of iridescent colours when viewed in reflected light and from a wide range of angles, the Ammolite is a gem from the Bearpaw Formation along the St. Mary River in southwestern Alberta in the foothills of the Rockies.
Though known by the native Blackfoot People in that region hundreds of years ago, naming it ‘iniskin’ and using it as a talisman, Ammolite did not become popular until the 1980s when it was formally recognized as a gemstone and then in 2004 it was named the Official Gemstone for the Province of Alberta.
Ammolite has been found in many places in the world including Russia, England, China, Morocco, and Madagascar but only those specimens from Alberta have a layer of iridescence thick enough to be cut into gems.
Ammolite’s Interesting Facts
Unlike many other gems that are carbon based and created by extremely high temperatures and pressure (e.g. diamond), the Ammolite’s source is organic from an extinct group of marine fossils that lived 70-75 million years ago. Their shells were an iridescent material in the shape of a ram’s horn, hence the name Ammonite after the ancient Egyptian god Amun who was represented by a ram’s head. The fact that these two words – ammonite and ammolite – are so similar explains why Ammolite is often wrongly labelled or referred to as an ammonite gemstone.
The colours of the Ammolite are truly spectacular, like a kaleidoscope ever changing with subtle movement according to light sources or the angles it is viewed. Every colour you can think of or those found in nature as in a rainbow are apparent in Ammolite: red, green, electric blue, yellow, orange, purple, violet, gold, and even clear. Some stones are a single colour while others exhibit a mixture of crimson, green, yellow, and just a hint of blue, all of which seem to shimmer or dance according to the angle of light.
The higher grade Ammolites will have either a range of strong bright colours or a single very strong colour, while the best gems have a brilliant, vibrant, dancing iridescence (like that of an opal) of changing colours somewhat reminiscent of the Northern Lights Mystic Topaz. Additionally, Ammolites are a natural stone, NEVER heated to enhance their colours.
A word of caution, though, Ammolite is soft, only 3.5-5.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness (compare again to a diamond at 10 on that scale) making suitable only for pendants, brooches, and ear rings, but NOT for rings that tend to get knocked about unless great care is taken.
Also, if you already have an Ammolite gem or were to buy one, make sure it never comes into contact with hairspray or any other chemicals for they will dull those brilliant colors. For further information about suitability and this gemstone in general I suggest you speak to Joe at LL Private Jewellers whose knowledge is invaluable.
Please for more information about Ammolite contact LL Private Jewellers at 604-683-3918.