Home News Ammolite: Alberta’s Iridescent Gemstone Signifying Divine Aid

Ammolite: Alberta’s Iridescent Gemstone Signifying Divine Aid

by Madonna

Nestled where the expansive prairies meet the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Alberta lies a rare and visually striking gem – ammolite, also known as gem-quality fossilized ammonite. Abundantly found within the dark gray shale of the Bearpaw Formation, this gem holds a unique place in the province’s geological and cultural tapestry.

Named after the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana, the region is renowned for its rich archaeological treasures, including marine fossils and dinosaur remains. Ammolite, with its mesmerizing colors and distinctive patterns, serves as Alberta’s official gemstone, reflecting the province’s cultural and geological diversity with a heritage deeply rooted in indigenous knowledge.


A Closer Look at Ammolite’s Characteristics

Ammolite, when viewed from different angles, unveils a spectrum of colors, ranging from red, orange, yellow, and green to blue and purple. This captivating display is a result of light reflecting on the outer layer of fossilized mollusc shells, measuring less than a millimeter in thickness. Classified based on color intensity and distribution, the highest quality is designated as “AAA” grade, despite its relatively low hardness on the Mohs scale, ranging between 3.5 and 4.


Formation and Origin

Formed exclusively on the outer shell of fossilized marine invertebrates called ammonites, ammolite, also known as “calcenite” or “corite,” graced the prehistoric Western Interior Seaway, once adjacent to the Rocky Mountains. Over time, as these mollusk shells fell to the seafloor and were covered with sediment, the unique geological conditions of the Bearpaw Formation preserved their chemical composition, giving rise to the distinctive iridescent outer layer.


While ammolite has been found in other regions, such as England, Morocco, and Madagascar, the gem-quality specimens are predominantly sourced from the Bearpaw Formation in Alberta and parts of Montana and Saskatchewan.

Ammolite Jewelry and its Fragility

Crafted into triplets – comprising a thin slab of shale for stability, a layer of ammolite, and a transparent covering of quartz or spinel for protection – ammolite’s fragility necessitates careful handling. As a result, it is often fashioned into pendants, earrings, and brooches, showcasing the vivid tones visible from multiple angles.

Spiritual Significance: The Buffalo Stone

Known to the Blackfoot people as Iniskim, meaning “buffalo stone,” ammolite holds deep spiritual significance. According to legend, during a harsh winter when the tribe faced starvation, a young woman’s dream led her to a special stone, a divine gift that ultimately brought forth a herd of buffalo, providing sustenance, clothing, and shelter. Ammolite thus became a symbol of divine assistance, a treasured talisman for luck and prosperity.

A Symbol of Alberta’s Distinct Heritage

In April 2022, ammolite was officially declared the gemstone of Alberta, joining the ranks of emblems like the wild rose, great horned owl, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Mined predominantly along the St. Mary’s River in southwestern Alberta, ammolite stands as a testament to the province’s diverse history, landscapes, and people. Local companies, with Korite International leading the way, continue to mine this colorful gemstone, preserving its allure for both locals and tourists alike. Amidst the enchanting land guarded by the towering Canadian Rockies, ammolite remains a cherished symbol of Alberta’s unique heritage.


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