Ammolite Jewellery: Vibrant, Rare & Unique
Ammolite has been given many names: Iniskim, Alberta Opal, Alberta Jewel, Aapoak, Calcentine and Korite.
Ammolite jewellery has been known to captivate with its rich and vibrant colors. Although it's been 70 million years in the making, this rare gem is relatively new having only been granted gem status in 1981. It's been predicted that by the time ammolite jewellery popularity peaks the world's supply of this alluring gem will be depleted.
This lens is designed to introduce you to ammolite jewellery and to outline the factors that determine its value so you know what to look for when buying a piece for yourself or as a gift. There is also a guide for the care and cleaning of your ammolite jewellery.
In this lens you will discover gold and sterling silver ammolite jewellery from the Aurora Ammolite Mine, artisan ammolite jewellery, diamond ammolite jewellery and loose ammolite gemstones for those looking to create their own custom piece.
Enjoy the journey.
Image: © Tara Wojtaszek, 2007. This beautiful whole fossil ammonite with ammolite exterior was on display at the annual gem show in Tucson, Arizona.
For every 1 ton of earth processed at an ammolite mine, 0.6 carats of ammolite will be found.
In contrast, 1 ton of earth at a diamond mine will yield 1.5 carats of diamond.
Poll: The Ammolite Jewellery Question
Have you heard of ammolite before?
What is Ammolite?
Is it Ammolite or Ammonite?
What is the difference between ammolite and ammonite?
Ammolite refers to the iridescent outer layer from an extinct cephalopod, a relative of the squid, that was abundant during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (200 - 65 million years ago). Ammolite is composed of aragonite, the same mineral that forms the nacreous layers of a pearl, and is not considered to be a fossil. It has formed through millions of years of heat and compaction within the earth.
Ammonite is the name of the fossil. Ammolite comes from two species of ammonites: Placenticeras meeki and Placenticeras intercalare. Ammonites have a coiled chambered shell that served to house the organism and helped to maintain buoyancy in the water. They became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period (65 million years ago) and the ammonites that would eventually bear ammolite were preserved in sediment in the Rocky Mountains.
Ammolite Is Rare
Ammolite is rare. This is because in most cases over time the aragonite that forms the ammonite's shell gets replaced by pyrite or calcite. The quantity of ammonites with an intact aragonite shell that can result in the gemstone ammolite is so small that the supply of ammolite is expected to be exhausted within twenty years.
Although iridescent ammonite can be found elsewhere in the world, such as Madagascar, ammolite is only found in a sediment layer (called the Bearpaw Formation) in the Rocky Mountains that extends from Alberta to Saskatchewan and down to Montana (there are even a few deposits as far South as Utah). Gem quality ammolite is concentrated in a deposit near Lethbridge, Alberta and is mined by Korite International and the Aurora Ammolite Mine. Only half of the ammolite found is of high enough quality to be used in jewelry. This is why every bit of gem quality ammolite must be used.
Photo used under Creative Commons from Different Seasons Jewelry
Some Facts About Ammolite
Ammolite achieves a 4 on the Mohs scale of hardness. For comparison, diamonds are the hardest mineral on earth and have a hardness of 10. Talc is very soft and has a hardness of 1. Pearls are 2.5, your fingernail is 3.5 and glass is 5.5.
There are two types of ammolite:
Type 1: Compacted Ammolite, sometimes called a 'natural'. This type has been fractured and subsequently 'healed' while in the earth. Because of this it is more durable than Type 2 and can be readily made into jewelry. Care should still be taken though because with a hardness of four it can be damaged if not treated with care.
Type 2: Sheet Ammolite is very thin (0.5-0.8mm, 0.02-0.03 inches) and must be treated before it can be used in jewellery. It is 'stabilized' by injecting it with clear epoxy or resin in order to prevent cracking while it is being cut. This type of ammolite is fashioned into a 'triplet' with an onyx or matrix backing, the ammolite layer in the middle and a protective cap of a hard material such as spinel (hardness 8), synthetic sapphire (hardness 9), or quartz (hardness 7). The ammolite triplets from the Korite and Aurora Ammolite Mines come with a lifetime guarantee.
Photo used under Creative Commons from Different Seasons Jewelry
Korite Ammolite Jewellery - Pendants
Ammolite & Diamond Jewelry
These three pendants feature ammolite from the Korite mine and are accented with natural diamonds. All three include a 14k yellow curb chain and you can choose your decired length: 16", 18", 20", 22" or 24".
14K White & Yellow Gold Korite Ammolite Pendant with Diamonds, 0.02ctw
14k Yellow Gold Korite Ammolite Pendant with Diamond Accents, 0.02ctw
14k YG Square Korite Ammolite (6 x 6mm) Pendant with Diamond, 0.02ctw
What Causes the Color in Ammolite?
Although ammolite is very thin itself, it is made up of stacks of even thinner layers. When light enters the gemstone the layers have a prismatic effect. Light bounces off the layers at different angles resulting in the play of color we see.
For the gemstone opal, reds and oranges are the rarest and most sought after colors while blues and purples are most common. For ammolite the opposite is true. Reds and greens are the most common as these colors are created by the thickest layers. Blues, purples, and pinks are the most rare because they are seen in the thinnest layers. The thin layers are of course the most delicate and most easily destroyed.
If you love rare red opals but can't afford the hefty price tag, consider investing in a piece of red ammolite instead.
Photo used under Creative Commons from Different Seasons Jewelry
How is Ammolite Graded?
What determines quality? What should I look for when buying?
Several factors work together to determine the grade of each piece of ammolite.
Colour : Numbers of colors present and which colors occur. Pieces with three or more colors present are much more desirable than pieces showing only one color. Reds, oranges, yellows and greens are the most plentiful as these occur in the thicker pieces of ammolite. Blues and purples occur in the thinnest pieces of ammolite and therefore break more easily and are more rare. Pink is the rarest color of all and is highly sought after.
Brightness : As can be expected, gemstones with brighter colors are more highly prized than those with dull lifeless colors. However, some exceptions can be made. Stones with less lively pink coloration will command a higher price than those with brighter other colors.
Directionality : This refers to how the colors appear when the stone is rotated. Ammolite gemstones that show bright and even coloration when rotated a full 360 degrees will be graded higher than those that appear dark in certain orientations. The lowest quality stones only show color when held in one direction and will appear dull and lifeless in the other directions.
Inclusions : This refers to the presence of impurities within the gemstone such as the presence of matrix (the rock material that hosts the gemstone). The highest quality ammolite gemstones will be free of impurities.
Polish : An excellent polishing job will add value to the piece. A poor polish will detract from even the best gem material.
Shape : Standard calibrated sizing will command a higher price as these pieces can easily be fit into existing jewellery mounts. Irregular shaped pieces will usually be made into one-off artisan pieces.
Pattern : This refers to the pattern of color. Some patterns are more pleasing to the eye than others. Further down you will find an Ammolite Pattern Lexicon.
Ammolite Grading Scale
Ammolite is graded by a letter scale with the "A" grades being gem quality and "C" grade being commercial and not suitable for use in jewelry. While there isn't a definitive grading system adopted by all producers and retailers, this is the system used by Korite International, the producer of 90% of the world's ammolite supply.
AA : The highest quality of gemstone bearing three or more distinct colors. Only ~5% of all ammolite collected falls into this category. This category is deemed 'collection grade' and is most often used in one-off gold jewelry pieces.
A+ : Gemstones with at least two bright colors.
A : Gemstones with one or more distinct colors. Less bright than A+ or AA.
A- or 'Standard' : One or more less bright or distinct colors, often green or red. Directionality will be observed. Roughly 40% of gem quality ammolite falls into this category.
B : Stones with one or two directional colors, not very bright.
C : The lowest grade, not considered gem quality. Fractured material bearing very little color.
Pear Shaped Korite Ammolite Pendant with DiamondsThis necklace is a beauty. A brightly colored pear-shaped 19 x 16" ammolite triplet from the Korite ammolite mine is set in 18k yellow gold with a freeform loop design and four natural diamond accents totaling 0.06cts. The pendant includes a chain (your choice of length from 16 inches to 24 inches) with a lobster clasp.
Ammolite Pattern Lexicon
Checkerboard - large blocky sections of color
Cobblestone - uneven blocks of color resembling a cobblestone street
Desert - sections of color separated by thick lines, the appearance of desiccation cracks as seen in the desert
Dragon skin - scale-like pattern resembling dragon or lizard skin
Feather - sections of feather-like color
Flashfire - larger scales, rotation causes bright flashes of color. When this happens with smaller scales it is called 'pinfire'.
Floral - mostly green stones with splashes of other colors (red, yellow) resembling flowers (when the colour splashes are red only this can be called 'Christmas Tree')
Lava lamp - blobs of color like you would see in a lava lamp
Lava River - a green background dissected by thick red bands
Moonglow - one or two luminescent colors, no scales or fractures
Paintbrush - wide stretches of color that look like they have been applied with a paintbrush
Pinfire - small scales. When the stone is rotated these scales cause small flashes of color (a smaller version of flashfire)
Ribbon - bands of color that can be thin or wide
Ripple - colors resemble the rippled surface of water
Sheet - solid colour, no scales, may have some small fracture lines, (closely resembles 'broad flash' pattern of opal)
Stained glass - as the name suggests, resembling the appearance of stained glass
Sunset - landscape- like patterns streaked with red and orange, as though bathed by the setting sun
Suture Gem - when the pattern from the ammonite's chamber walls is visible then this is called 'Suture Gem'
Terrain - color pattern resembling an aerial map
Tinfoil - a bright crinkly appearance like tinfoil
Video: The Korite International Ammolite Mine - Mining, Polishing and Fashioning Ammolite Into Jewellery
This video is your 'front row seat' on an exciting expedition following the process of extracting ammolite, polishing it to bring out its natural beauty and finally turning it into a unique and alluring piece of jewellery.
How to Buy Exotic Gemstones
The essential guidebook to buying rare gemstones including ammolite. This book includes detailed colored photographs, history and lore, treatments, imitations and outlines how to care for your gemstone.
Renee Newman is well known for her gemstone buying guides having authored eleven books on jewellery and gemstone buying. She has mastered the ability to break down technical information and make it accessible to those not in the jewellery trade.
Feng Shui: Called the "Seven Color Prosperity Stone"
Ammolite helps create balance in the home and life as each of the colors address a different life aspect:
promotes growth & energy
stimulates creativity & libido
increases wealth & prosperity
heightens wisdom & entrepreneurial spirit
Blue & Violet
creates peace & improves health
Ammolite Jewellery Care and Cleaning
How to best care for your ammolite jewellery
Clean ammolite jewelry as you would a strand of pearls. Wipe away any dirt with a soft damp cloth. If necessary you can use very mild soap and water. Harsh abrasives will damage the stone as will gold or silver solutions, steamers and ultrasonic cleaners.
For 'naturals': avoid contact with cleansers, perfume, hairspray or lotions as these can dull ammolite jewellery. Avoid prolonged exposure to water as 'hard water' may cause minerals to deposit on the ammolite over time. Remove your ammolite jewellery when showering, swimming or doing the dishes.
For triplets: avoid sharp blows that could separate the layers or chip the crystal cap.
Keep your ammolite jewellery away from heat. Only have repairs or sizing done by a professional with ammolite experience.
Store ammolite jewellery in its box when not in use to prevent damage from contact with other jewellery.
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