Ammolite: Ammonite Fossil Gemstone
Ammolite is a rare organic gemstone that displays the same iridescence as opals.
It is especially popular in Japan and China where it is used to imitate black opals and is used in Feng Shui practices.
What is Ammolite?
While aragonite is the main component of ammolite, other minerals can be found in it as well. Mainly pyrite, calcite and silica, though other trace elements are quite common.
Most gemstones gain their color by absorbing part of the light spectrum and reflecting the rest. This is not the case with ammolite.
The colors come from interference with the light that rebounds from the tiny layers that aragonite is made up of. If these layers are thick it will produce green and red colors, but if they are thin blue and violet colors will start to dominate.
Ammolite is quite thin and fragile, the total thickness of the aragonite layer is often between 0.5 and 1 millimeters. The only reason these gemstones can be used is because the aragonite will be present as a small layer on another mineral or rock. Ammolite generally only has a hardness of around 4-5 on Mohs hardness scale.
Deposits of ammolite can be found all over the world. However if you want to dig for ammolite Alberta, Canada is your best bet. Large amounts of high quality ammolite can be found there.
Korite International is the main producer of ammolite, producing around 90% of the total world supply.
Because of the fragility of this gemstone you should be quite careful with it. Here are some tips to make sure you can enjoy your ammolite as long as possible:
- Only clean with warm water and a mild soap when it has been treated with a resin to increase its durability.
- When you are the owner of an untreated stone you should only use a dry or damp soft cloth or you might damage your ammolite.
- A steam or ultrasonic jewelry cleaner should not be used on this gemstone.
- Make sure to store ammolite away from hard objects, that includes other gemstones. It can easily scratch and lose flakes of aragonite otherwise.
Guide to Buying Ammolite
Ammolite is quite rare and relatively unknown. So if you’d like to buy this gemstone you might need to do a little legwork, unless you are buying online. Large jewelry chains are very unlikely to have ammolite stones in stock.
Your best bet is to look for a gemstone dealer that has a large stock and is willing to order ammolite in case his currently selection is not to your liking.
There are two types of treatments that are often used for ammolite. The first is using an epoxy or other resin to seal the ammolite. This is usually done before cutting the stone to prevent the aragonite layers from flaking.
The other treatment is by putting another mineral over the ammolite to act as a lens. This treatment is mainly used on very thin and fragile ammolite. The capping is done with synthetic spinel, quartz or glass for low quality gemstones. Not only does this protect the gemstone it also increases the iridescence.
While ammolite is fairly hard to imitate there are still some products on the market that are able to fool some customers. They include: labradorite, lumachella (more commonly known as fire marble) and abalone. The latter can be quite convincing if they are dyed and capped by a transparent mineral as is often done to enhance ammolite.
The easiest way to avoid these type of imitations is to only deal with jewelers or gemstone dealers with a high reputation. Though it is likely you will only find ammolite there regardless, as it is quite rare and relatively unknown.
It would be best to buy an ammolite pendant or ammolite earrings and not an ammolite ring. The reason for this is that this gemstone is very fragile and rings are far more likely to come in contact with hard objects that can damage or destroy ammolite. If you do insist on a ring you should make sure it’s covered with a durable synthetic stone like corundum or spinel.
The most important ammolite properties are its iridescence and colors. You can see how thick the aragonite layer is by looking at the colors, thick layers are green and red, while thin layers will be blue and violet. Thick layers are more durable and fetch a higher price.
Loose ammolite is often sold for between $20 and $50 per carat. However for high quality or very large gemstones this can change dramatically, hundreds of dollars per carat is no exception.
Ammolite jewelry can be quite expensive even though the stones are often of mediocre quality. My advice would be to buy a loose ammolite and get it set in a piece of jewelry of your liking. Take a look at this article for a quick overview of the advantages of buying loose gemstones.
Important!: Make sure your jeweler knows what he is doing. Setting this gemstone is something you want an expert for!
Currently ammolite is still quite affordable, this could be changing shortly however. Demand is increasing every year in China and Japan. Mostly to replace the increasingly rare black opal and for use in Feng Shui practices.
If you are looking to buy a one of a kind gemstone you can’t go wrong with ammolite and this is probably the best time you can buy one.