Ammonite fossils can be found around the world, but one, in particular, produces a gemstone so rare and unique that it can only be found in one Canadian province. Ammolite gemstones come from the fossilized shells of Ammonites, extinct molluscs that lived in the Bearpaw Sea. This body of water that once covered most of southern Alberta and was part of an ancient inland seaway that split North America in two and ran from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
The particular conditions in this area of the province are thought to be the reason how Ammonite fossils are formed and preserved with an incredible kaleidoscope of colour. Canadian Ammolite is prized for its iridescent appearance, a result of alternating layers of the mineral aragonite and the protein in the Ammonites’ shells that creates a stunning, rainbow-like effect.
On April 21, 2022, Ammolite was declared the official gemstone of the Province of Alberta. The designation was made by former Minister Ron Orr, to recognize the unique and valuable contribution of Ammolite to Alberta’s cultural and economic heritage. Since then, Ammolite has become an important symbol of Alberta’s natural beauty.
“Ammolite is an important part of our heritage and economy. Recognizing ammolite as Alberta’s official gemstone reflects the unique nature of the stone and of our province, and helps to fulfil recommendation 25 of the Fair Deal Panel.”
- Ron Orr, Former Minister of Culture
Why Ammolite Gemstones Are So Rare
Alberta is the only place in the world where colourful Ammolite is mined commercially, and the Bearpaw Formation in southern Alberta is home to the highest quality of Ammolite. The shores of the Oldman River and the St. Mary River are where Ammolite is typically mined. This area is known for its rich deposits of Ammonite fossils, which are believed to be between 71 and 74 million years old. It’s the only place in the world where Ammolite can be found, making it one of the rarest gemstones.
From a cultural perspective, selected pieces of broken Ammonite fossils are traditionally used for luck and as part of healing ceremonies by the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) Tribe. These Ammonite fragments were given the name Iniskim (buffalo calling stones), stemming from folklore tales told by Niitsitapi elders.
Only a small fraction of the Ammolite found in the Bearpaw Formation are considered to be top-grade gem-quality material. Due to Ammolite’s naturally soft exterior, with a hardness of 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale, it’s a semi-precious gemstone that is cut and polished carefully. As such, it’s important to purchase Ammolite from a reputable source that is not only skilled in accomplishing this, but can also verify the authenticity of the stone.
“Alberta is world-renowned for its fossil resources. The designation of ammolite as Alberta’s official gemstone adds to this reputation, and speaks to the remarkable history of ancient life recorded in the rocks throughout the province.”
- Dr. Craig Scott, Director of Preservation & Research, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
Authentic Ammolite Gemstone Certification & Approval
The Government of Alberta has one of the strictest fossil protection laws in the world to preserve the rich history and quality of our official gemstone. Any fossilized remains of plants and animals are protected under the Government of Alberta’s Historical Resources Act, and violations of the Act can be punished by law.
To source or sell Ammolite gemstones and iridescent Ammonite fossils:
- The company must obtain a Disposition Certificate from the Government of Alberta through the Royal Tyrrell Museum before selling fossils collected in Alberta
- The process of excavating Ammonite fossils requires a permit issued by Alberta Culture through the Royal Tyrrell Museum
- Specimens must be certified as authentic by the Federal Department of Canadian Heritage
Without these certifications, there is no guarantee that the specimen is of genuine quality.
At Iniskim International, we are government certified and are accredited by the International Coloured Gemstone Association to guarantee the highest quality and ethically sourced Ammolite. With over 30 years of experience and knowledge in the Ammolite and Ammonite industry, we’ve developed lasting relationships, operate with integrity, and are committed to preserving the rich history of Canadian Ammolite gemstones.