Do you know that most of the gems you’ve seen in this gem market are minerals? Minerals are inorganic, meaning they’re composed of, or derived from, non-living matter.
This article will introduce you to the fascinating world of Ammolite which is an organic gem. This literally means ammolite is a gem derived from plants or animals. I am pretty sure that many of you were introduced to organic gems when you learned about natural and cultured pearls. But pearls aren’t the only organic gems that are using in jewelry industry. Rich red corals, intricately carved cameos, elephant ivory, golden beads of amber, iridescent effect in ammonite and many more beautiful materials have long histories of use as jewelry objects.
Ammonites are the fossilized remains of hard-shelled, squid-like marine mollusks that lived between 65 million and 395 million years ago. They’re related to and resemble today’s chambered nautilus. The ammonite shell was a coiled spiral that contained many air-filled chambers.
Ammonites ranged in size from less than an inch (2.54 cm) to about 9 feet (2.74 m) in diameter. Unlike minerals, ammonite or ammolite formation caused by minerals surrounding bodies of shell filled the chambers and voids and replaced their bodies. This is why the chemical composition of ammonites varies from piece to piece. Generally speaking, the fossils are often made up of aragonite, calcite, pyrite, silica, and other minerals.
Today, the major sources of ammonites used in jewelry are Canada, England, Morocco, and the US.
Many ammonites have iridescent colors that make them popular for use in jewelry. Over millions of years, minerals gradually replaced once-living ammonites’ bodies and shells. The mineral types and relative amounts determine the appearance of the ammonites we see today.
Jewelry manufacturers usually cut ammonites in half or into thin slices to expose the segmented spiral structure. Ammonites range from gray to brown and sometimes show iridescent flashes of red, green, orange, and purple. The ones that lack iridescence are not usually used in jewelry. Manufacturers often retain ammonites’ natural shape, border them in silver or gold, and use them in earrings or pendants.
Cabochons, free forms, tablets, ovals, and squares are among ammonites’ other fashioned shapes. Manufacturers can take advantage of ammonites’ natural beauty by cutting them into cabochons and other standard shapes. Thin slices of ammonite are sometimes fashioned into doublets or triplets for protection. Some manufacturers fill and protect ammonite slices with a manmade resin.
Recently, Canada is the principal source of iridescent ammonites. Ammonites are sometimes sold under the trade names “ammolite” and “korite.”