“Ammolite” is the name given to the colorful and wonderful ammonite fossils found in Southern Alberta. It is an opal-like gem mineral that displays an extraordinary play of color ranging from bright red all the way to deep violets. Their shells underwent a unique fossilization process from exposure to pressure, temperature and geographic location which caused the animal’s shell to recrystallize into amazing iridescent colors.

These unique treasures can only be found in one location worldwide - in the famous Bear Paw Formation in the southwest of Alberta, Canada. The specimens are mined on the Native American Blackfoot reservation, who themselves operate and oversee the excavation and production.

Since 1981 it is recognized as a gemstone by the CIBJO Colored Stones Commission. Ammolite is the only material in the world considered to be Fossil, Mineral and Gemstone.



Ammolite may be a relatively new material to the mineral industry, but the blackfoot natives have a long history with the material dating back hundreds of years. They called the material “Iniskim” which translates to buffalo stone in their native tongue and used it as a talisman.

The first scientific accounts on the colorful ammonite shells now known as “Ammolite” were done back in 1908 by scientists from the Canadian Geological Survey. Due to Ammolite’s rarity however it wasn’t until the 60s that material first started appearing at gem and mineral shows.

Marcel Charbonneau, owner of a Calgary rock shop, saw the potential in this material and began assembling doublets of iridescent ammonite shell on matrix with a clear quartz cap, renaming them "Ammolite". The material quickly became popular. In 1981, Ammolite was recognized as a gemstone by CIBJO Colored Stones Commission, and in 2004 it was named as the official gemstone of the Province of Alberta. The Colored Stones Commission brought international attention to Ammolite and it becoming the official Alberta gemstone produced enormous local popularity.

The size of Alberta's Ammolite resource is difficult to assess. Searching outcrops does not yield reliable information because weathering has destroyed and altered much of the original Ammolite. The productive zones in the Bearpaw Formation are only a few feet thick, and the gem material is concentrated in large fossils. This makes drilling an ineffective exploration method.

Iridescent ammonite fossils are found in many outcrops of the Bearpaw Formation, but these are often too damaged by weathering to serve as good gem materials, let alone complete specimens. The best gem-quality material is found in the excavations of mining operations where depth has protected the Ammolite from weathering. Some of it still requires stabilization to be used as a gem material. Some of it is too thin for use in manufacturing.

In areas where there is a potential for gem-quality material, the Bearpaw Formation is typically dipping. This limits mining to a thin zone between the outcrop and where the overburden is too thick to mine profitably. This limits the size and value of any discovery. Together, these facts make Ammolite a uniquely rare material.