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Appearance, Uses and History
Ammolite is a gemstone comprised of the fossilised shells of Ammonites. It is comprised of Aragonite, sometimes with mild impurities of other minerals. Light refracts within the layers of Aragonite, causing bright flashes of colour.
Ammolite is exclusively used for two things – jewellery making, and fossil/mineral specimens.
Several species of Ammonite seemed to have gained this gorgeous colour – Placenticeras meeki, and Placenticeras intercalare being the two most common. Another is Baculite compressus; a straight member of the Ammonitida family.
Red and greens are the most common colours shown but there are many other possibilities.
A single company, Korite, controls around 90% of all gem quality Ammolite. Generally speaking, the deeper the mine, the higher quality the specimens – at 15 meters deep it is often cracked and crackled. At a depth of 20 meters, there is ‘sheet Ammolite’, a higher quality, less fractured material.
There is no standardised grading system for Ammolite, but the system used by Korite is quite detailed.
Ammolite should not be confused with other iridescent Ammonites. There are often specimens from Madagascar missold as Ammolite. While they do show iridescent patches of colour as a result of the same phenomenon, they are not a gem grade.
Almost all Ammolite on Earth is found in the Bearpaw formation, which stretches from Alberta to Saskatchewan in Canada, along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
However, there are small deposits elsewhere, including Colorado and Utah.
Almost all Ammolite is polished and made into a doublet – a backed cabochon. Some pieces are made into triplets, if they are too thin.
Photos of Ammolite
Hazards and Warnings
Almost all rocks, minerals (and, frankly, almost all other substances on earth) can produce toxic dust when cutting, which can cause serious respiratory conditions including silicosis.
When cutting or polishing rocks, minerals, shells, etc, all work should be done wet to minimise the dust, and a suitable respirator or extraction system should be used.
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