Ammolite Gemstone Information
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About Ammolite - History and Introduction
Ammolite, often referred to as ammonite, is arguably one of the rarest gemstones on earth. Ammolite belongs to a small group of organic gemstones, which also includes amber, coral, jet and pearl. Ammolite is composed of the fossilized shell remains of ammonites, primarily aragonite, the same material that makes up nacreous pearls. Ammolite's highly desirable, opal-like, iridescent play-of-color typically occurs in shades of green and red, but all of the spectral colors are possible.
Top grade ammolite stones should not show any visible matrix. Ammolite sources and deposits are expected to be depleted and exhausted within the next twenty years. Ammolite often has a flaky or "dragon skin" surface. To an extent, this is normal, but excessive scaling will reduce ammolite's value.
Identifying Ammolite Back to Top
There are a few gemstones that can mimic ammolite, including labradorite, spectrolite and opal, all of which can have a similar appearance. However, ammolite can usually be distinguished quite easily through close inspection. Ammolite's iridescence is a result of aragonite's unique microstructure, making it different than most other gemstones with iridescence. Typically, iridescence is a result of light absorption, but ammolite color is a result of light interference rebounding off thin layers of platelets, which are part of aragonite's organic structure. Labradorite most often occurs in blue and purple colors, whereas ammolite is typically found in red and green. Both labradorite and opal play-of-color appear to "roll-across" the stone, unlike the restricted play-of-color seen with ammolite. The visible structures of ammolite are also very unique, distinguishing it from look-a-likes. Imitations will usually appear transparent to translucent depending on the perspectives viewed, but natural ammolite is opaque.
Ammolite Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top
Sources of ammonite do exist in various locations around the world, but Ammolite is sourced primarily (over 90%) from one location along the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, Canada. In 1981, mining for ammolite escalated to a commercial level and during this time, the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) declared ammolite an official variety of colored gemstone.
In 2004, Alberta declared ammolite as its provincial gemstone and in 2007, the City of Lethbridge also declared ammolite to be its official gemstone. The best deposits are along high energy river systems on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies. Most of the commercial mining is conducted along the St. Mary River and approximately 50% of all ammolite is mined from within the Indian Kainah reserve. Since 2003, an eco-friendly mining company, Korite International, has been the world's leading provider for gem quality ammolite. Utah based, Seafire Gems is also known to produce specimens of gem quality ammolite. If the current production rate of fine ammolite continues, ammolite mines are expected to be worked out within 20 years.
Buying Ammolite and Determining Ammolite Gemstone Value Back to Top
Ammolite Gemological Properties: Back to Top
Ammolite Gemstone Varieties or other Similar Gemstones: Back to Top
Ammolite is an extremely difficult gemstone to imitate. However, there are a few gemstones that bear similar resemblance, some of which, include labradorite, spectrolite and precious opal. Though ammolite is rarer than opal, black opal is more valuable, which sometimes results in ammolite being used as an alternative or imitatation black opal. Since ammolite belongs to the organic group of gemstones, some varieties of organic gems, as well as shell-based marbles can often be confused with ammolite. Since ammolite is composed mostly of the fossilized shell remains of ammonites, which also make up the composition of nacreous pearls, both pearl and mother-of-pearl are very closely related to ammolite fossils. As a fossil gemstone, its process of formation is similar to that of fossil coral, amber, petrified wood and jet. The iridescent colors and optical phenomena of ammolite is very unique, but it is not the only gemstone to exhibit stunning color effects. Other gemstones which exhibit beautiful and rare colorful effects, include hackmanite, rainbow pyrite, fire agate, varieties of opal and moonstone.
Ammolite Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top
Ammolite powers and metaphysical beliefs can be traced back through many centuries. Although ammolite is relatively new commercially, native tribes have been using ammolite for hundreds of years. The Blackfeet Indians named ammolite the 'Buffalo Stone', because they would find ammolite fragments washed-up on river banks, often with silhouettes reminiscent of buffaloes. Buffaloes represented wealth, health, power and stamina. Blackfeet tribesman believed ammolite possessed strong healing powers and often mixed the gem into medicines.
Ammolite Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas Back to Top
Ammolite deposits are quite rare and only 50% of all finds are suitable for jewelry. Ammolite stones have been used as amulets for a very long time. Ammolite is usually fashioned into freeform shapes and mounted in silver or gold. The colors are best highlighted with transparent crystal accents such as spinel. Even though ammolite is typically layered as doublets or triplets, it is still fragile. Therefore, ammolite is best suited for use in pendants, earrings or brooches.
Ammolite gemstones can be worn as rings, but only when they are layered into triplets. Spinel is most popular for creating ammolite triplet gemstone rings. Because Canada is the number one source for creating and trading ammolite jewelry, artisans often sell ammolite jewelry to tourists visiting Banff National Park. In the United States, ammolite is very popular among the Zuni tribe and other Native American craftsmen.
Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Colored stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.
Ammolite Gemstone and Jewelry Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Like all organic gemstones, caring for ammolite requires extra attention. Ammolite can be cleaned with warm water and a soft cloth. Mild soap or detergent can be used if needed, but avoid harsh chemicals, including bleach, perfume or hairspray. Excessive heat and acid can weaken stability and iridescence. Though triplets are slightly more durable, the same level of care should be taken for all ammolite. Avoid hard blows, because it can cause damage and separation of doublet or triplet layers. Ammolite should be stored separately from other stones because it can be easily scratched by other gems. A silk bag, soft cloth or velvet-lined box is ideal for use when storing ammolite.
- First Published: July-04-2013
- Last Updated: November-08-2018
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