Ammolite – A Favourite Canadian Gemstone

Ammolite is a gemstone that gained official gemstone status in 1981 by the International Confederation of Jewellery in Paris and is mined in Southern Alberta, Canada.  Some people think it is opal when they first see the beautiful variety of colours and patterns.
Ammonite with Ammolite

Ammonite with Ammolite Photo by J. McKercher

Ammolite is formed from an ancient marine fossil called an ammonite.  There are sources around the world, but the gemstone ammolite is only mined in Southern Alberta, Canada.
The gemstone ammolite is the iridescent nacreous shell on an extinct ammonite.  The nacreous layer on the shell is formed of calcium carbonate crystallized as aragonite, and conchoilin in a three-dimensional structure.  The play of colour is produced by the reflected light diffracting off of layers of calcium carbonate and conchoilin.  Red, orange and green are common, blue and violet are very rare.

Ammolite is not very hard or tough.  It is often fashioned as a doublet or triplet, this means that there is a sturdy backing glued to the piece of ammolite and with a triplet a colourless piece of material is glued to the top for added protection.  Whether the ammolite is a solid piece, a doublet or a triplet, you must take special care of your ammolite jewellery.   Limit contact with water, soaps, detergents, chemicals and cleaners and be sure to avoid exposure to direct, intense heat.  To clean your ammolite jewellery use a soft, damp cloth to gently wipe away dirt.

ammolite specimens of green and blue

Image courtesy of Flickr

Korite International has mines that produce 90% of the world’s supply of ammolite.  Their mines are expected to be exhausted in about 20 years.  Please visit the Korite International website for more information about mining ammolite, the production of ammolite jewellery and photos of their beautiful ammolite jewellery.

This video is from Aurora Canadian Jewellery and shows you the actual mining procedure and how the ammonite doublets and triplets are formed.  You can see from this video that each piece of ammolite is unique and therefore each piece of ammolite jewellery is unique.  This is something to keep in mind if you are considering an ammolite purchase.

There is an excellent DVD that shows the mining of ammolite and the production of ammolite jewellery.  The DVD is called “Birth of a Gemstone” and is in a series of DVDs called “Stones of Fate and Fortune”.  Excellent specimens of ammolite can often be found in natural history museums.  These specimens can be found at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Royal Ontario Museum ROM

Ammolite Specimens at the ROM Photo by J. McKercher

Your Input (Join our poll or scroll down and leave a comment)

I plan to introduce different gemstones alphabetically.  I will start with “A” (Ammolite) and see where it leads me.  Leave a comment and let me know if you have a favourite gemstone that starts with the letter “B”.  Take the poll!  Can you name a reference to a gemstone in a song, movie or book?


About Jen McKercher

Jennifer McKercher teaches gemmology at the Canadian Gemmological Association. A passion for gemstones drives Jen to learn as much as she can about the wonders of gemstones and how they enhance our lives.

Posted on June 7, 2011, in Individual Gemstones and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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