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Facts & Legends: Alberta’s Ammolite Gemstone

July 4, 2016
By Jack Wennot

Ammolite gemstones are prized by tourists, First Nations and feng shui practitioners. Derived from the colourful shells of 70-million-year-old Alberta ammonite fossils, these rare gems have immense appeal to Rockies visitors.

Quality ammolite is found within the Bearpaw Formation near the St. Mary River. Although Indigenous peoples of southwestern Alberta have cherished ammonites for centuries, it was only in 1981 that ammolite was awarded official gem status by the World Jewellery Confederation.

Ammonite fossils make beautiful ammolite jewellery.

Ammonite fossils make beautiful ammolite jewellery.

Ammolite is renowned for its exquisite array of colours forged during millions of years of tectonic pressure and heat. This beauty is created by naturally formed gem layers. No two stones have the same colours or pattern.

High grade ammolite has vibrant colours and few fracture lines. Rare hues like gold, violet and crimson are prized. Look for iridescence that varies as the angle of the light changes.

The New York Museum of Natural History displays ammonites donated by Alberta miner and ammolite jewellery producer Korite. Whole fossils sold by Canadian Rockies retailers make beautiful and interesting additions to home décor.

Ammolite jewellery by Susan Kun (photo credit: Ammonite Factory)

Ammolite jewellery by Susan Kun (photo credit: Ammonite Factory)

Aboriginal Lore
The Blackfoot Nation knew ammonite as the sacred ‘buffalo stone.’ Colourful fossils were said to bring luck to their owners. The discovery of the first buffalo stone is recounted in a legend about a snowy winter without buffalo when the Blackfoot people were hungry.

In one version, a woman was drawn to a song in the cottonwood trees. There she found an ammonite and buffalo hair. The stone instructed the woman to take it back to her lodge and to pray for the buffalo’s return.

She did as asked, and was joined by the chief and elders. Soon the thunder of buffalo was heard, and the people were saved from starvation. From that day the Blackfoot have treasured ammonite and respected its power.

Sterling silver ammolite pendant (photo credit: Ammonite Factory)

Sterling silver ammolite pendant (photo credit: Ammonite Factory)

Chinese Feng Shui Belief
Feng shui philosophers believe in harmony between people and nature. They have called ammolite the most influential gemstone of the millennium and believe its colours represent life’s balance. Master Edward Kui Ming Li says the gem contains the earth’s energy.

Red within ammolite is said to encourage love, orange—creativity, yellow—wealth, green—wisdom, blue—health, indigo—peace, and violet—growth and energy. The gemstone has come to symbolize good luck, prosperity and enlightenment.

Most who buy ammolite at Canadian Rockies shops simply wish to acquire lovely jewellery. But the gemstone’s unique geological origins and spiritual properties can enhance the significance of the purchase.

See Banff, Canmore and Jasper jewellery stores.

>> For more Canadian Rockies activities, shops, restaurants and entertainment, read our digital magazine.

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