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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.

Ammolite is also known as 'aapoak', which originated from an Indian Kainah word, meaning "small, crawling stone". Other trade names include gem-ammonite, korite and calcentine. Korite International mining company is the world's leading commercial provider for gem quality ammolite. The term 'ammonite' was originally used to describe the spiral shape of the fossilized shells, which closely resembled the shape of ram's horns.

Ammolite Gemstone

Identifying Ammolite

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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

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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

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Ammolite Color

Ammolite color is owed to an optical phenomenon known as iridescence. Iridescence allows ammolite to display an incredible play-of-color similar to precious opal. Ammolite color depends on the angle of light and the viewing angle. Iridescence can range from subtle to dramatic color shifts. Ammolite is known to have chromatic color shifts, such as red to green, or green to blue (dichromatic). Some ammolite color shifts are restricted to the same primary color group (monochromatic). The most valuable ammolite shifts through the entire color spectrum (spectrochromatic).

Rotational range, separate from play-of-color, also affects ammolite value. The best ammolite will display vivid colors from a full 360-degree rotational range. Others may exhibit colors only from a limited rotational range. Specimens with color ranges of 241-360° and 180°-240° are considered to be more desirable. Those with 90°-179° degree color limitations are not as valuable, but since all ammolite is rare, any gem quality specimen is in high demand. Crimson, violet and gold ammolite are the rarest color combinations.

Ammolite Clarity and Luster

Ammolite is naturally opaque. Almost all ammolite specimens will include part of the host matrix (typically clay, limestone or shale). Ammolite has a near vitreous luster and can appear slightly resinous when stabilized with epoxy, polymer or resins.

Ammolite Cut and Shape

Ammolite is almost always cut into free-form slabs. Calibrated stones (and round or fancy shapes) will command a very high premium. Most ammolite is fabricated into doublet or triplet stones. Ammolite triplets are ideal for use in cabochon rings. Ammolite is very rarely offered in an untreated state.

Ammolite Treatment

Ammolite is typically enhanced by layering. Without enhancements, ammolite is far too fragile for use in jewelry. Layering is common in the gem trade and it is most often seen in the form of opal doublets or triplets. Ammolite is often stabilized through impregnation of lacquer, polymer, epoxy or resins. Ammolite doublets consist of a hard bottom, typically obsidian or another type of glass, and a thin strip of ammolite glued on top. Triplets include a third clear crystal layer to enhance durability and iridescence, such as synthetic spinel. Layering of assembled doublets and triplets is very common and accepted in the gem trade as long as treatment is disclosed. Layering treatments enhance durability and in most cases, can also enhance color.

Ammolite Gemological Properties:

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Chemical Formula: Calcium carbonate (CaCO3); 3-4% variable mineral traces).
Crystal Structure: Orthorhombic
Color: Gray-brown, multicolored iridescence
Hardness: 4 on the Mohs scale (varies in composition.)
Refractive Index: 1.52 - 1.68
Density: 2.75 - 2.80
Cleavage: Pinacoidal
Transparency: Opaque
Double Refraction / Birefringence: 0.155
Luster: Greasy to dull; vitreous to resinous
Fluorescence: Ultraviolet light - mustard yellowish

Ammolite Gemstone Varieties or other Similar Gemstones:

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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.

Most Popular Similar or Related Gemstone Varieties and Trade Names:

Labradorite, precious opal, black opal, fire opal, chocolate opal, pearl, mother of pearl, coral, fossil coral, amber and jet are the most common similar or related gemstone varieties and trade names.

Lesser Known Similar or Related Gemstone Varieties and Trade Names:

Hackmanite, opal in matrix, fire marble, fossilized clam, snail shell, spectrolite, petrified wood, peanut wood and abalone shell are lesser-known similar or related gemstone varieties and trade names.

Ammolite Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Healing Powers

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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.

After ammolite was introduced to the rest of the world in the 1990s, ammolite became very popular among practitioners of feng shui. It was known as an "influential" stone. It was believed that ammolite had the power to enhance and detoxify the body with "chi". It was later given the name of "Seven Color Prosperity Stone". Each ammolite color influenced its wearer with a different "chi" or energy. Ancient Egyptians named the fossil after one of their gods, Ammon, because ammolite resembled the shape of ram's horns. Ammonite was highly prized by Egyptians, Romans and Ethiopians alike. Ammolite was worn in the belief that prophetic dreams would come to them, and it would help with deep meditation.

Other ammolite powers include the ability to change negativity into flowing energy. It is thought to ease childbirth, reduce depression and relieve harmful thoughts and patterns. Since ammolites are fossils of once living creatures, they are linked to the fifth element, Akasha. Ammolite is also the stone of Aquarius and is assigned to the first root/base chakra.

Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed practitioner. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements made and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.

Ammolite Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas

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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

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How to Clean your GemstonesLike 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: January-03-2019
  • © 2005-2019 all rights reserved.
    Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.
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