Ammolite Buying Tips

ammolite buying tips ammonite fossil gemstone 14k jewelry necklace

Looking to start your own ammolite collection? Here are some ammolite buying tips to help you make informed purchase decisions. Ammolite has dazzled the world since its introduction as an official gemstone in 1981. This biogenic gemstone quickly became a collector’s favorite. Whether you’re buying a beautiful iridescent Canadian ammonite fossil specimen, or adding that eye-catching jewelry with splendid color play to your collection. Our ammolite buying tips will help you pick out the most suitable ammolite jewelry & ammonite fossils tailored just for you.

Ammolite Buying Tips – Color Play

One of the most fascinating aspects of ammolite gemstones is their opal-like color play. When purchasing ammolite, look for a chromatic shift of colors. Real genuine ammolite gemstones will display changing colors depending on the viewing angles, known as the play of color. Ammolite’s colors come from light interference that rebounds from stacked layers of aragonite. Some color shifts are more subtle, such as reds displaying different hues of red. This is called monochromatic shift.

Korite silver ammolite A Grade ring color play chromatic shift
Korite A Grade silver ring with mostly green/yellow and hint of rare blue
Korite ammolite A Grade silver ring color play chromatic shift fiery red
Slight shift in perspective brings out the fiery red flames

Higher quality ammolite gemstones however, will display dichromatic or spectro-chromatic shifts. Dichromatic will shift one color into another, such as red to green. Spectro-chromatic shift will display a wide array of colors. Rare ammolite gemstones will display hidden colors and patterns that only show up from specific angles. Imagine wearing a piece of ammolite jewelry, and as people walk by, they catch dazzling explosions of colors from your ammolite. This breathtaking play of color is rare in gemstones, and highly valued by ammolite collectors.

ammolite buying tips aa grade gemstone jewelry color play
AA grade gemstone displaying 3 primary colors
ammolite buying tips aa grade jewelry chromatic shift color play rare violet pink
Slight shift shows surprise red, golden yellow, and pink explosions with rare violet bursting out of blues

Ammolite Buying Tips – Buy From Reputable Sellers

Avoid bargain shopping on websites like Ebay. There are ammolite fakes made from polymer clay and labradorite. If you are unfamiliar with ammolite, you may not be able to tell the difference. The ammolite fakes have gotten quite convincing, but they do lack the brilliant iridescence and good color play of genuine ammolite. Judging sellers based on their reviews is also unreliable. Reviews can be faked and bought as we’ve seen from Amazon and Ebay.

Quality ammolite gemstones hold their values very well. High quality ammolite gemstones and jewelry should cost quite a bit because they are rare. If the prices look too good to be true, then it likely is. Korite is the largest miner of Canadian ammonite fossils. They produce 90% of the world’s supply of ammolite, and out of those, only 50% are gemstone quality. The top grade AA and AAA quality ammolite account for only 3% – 12% of Korite’s annual production.

Korite designs and produces some of the highest quality ammolite jewelry in the world. If you are shopping for a Canadian ammonite, Korite has museum quality ammonite fossils for sale as well. Use our referral code to get 15% off on all purchases from Korite. This Korite coupon code works for all items, including jewelry and ammonite fossils on sale. Take 15% off already low priced on sale items.

Ammolite Buying Tips – Rotational Range

The rotational range of ammolite means how much you can rotate the gemstone while still seeing colors. While looking for ammolite’s play of color, see if there are blind spots where colors fade away. Always ask to see pictures from different angles. If possible, a video will allow you to see both the color play and rotational range of an ammolite gemstone.

ammolite buying tips gemstone jewelry rotational range
AA quality ammolite gemstone showing good rotational range of colors

Not all ammolite gemstones and jewelry will have a good rotational range. It’s perfectly fine to purchase an ammolite without a good rotational range of colors, but the prices should reflect properly. Ammolite gemstones with good rotational range are valued higher, so it should cost more. When spending higher prices on an ammolite jewelry or gemstone, be sure the rotational range is good.

Ammolite Buying Tips – Rare Colors

The colors red and green are the most common in ammolite gemstones. Contrast that to opals, while red is the most rare and valuable in opals, there is no shortage of red in ammolite. Colors amber and orange are also fairly common, while colors blue and purple are considered rare colors in ammolite gemstones. There are certain hues derived from primary colors; crimson, golden yellow, violet, turquoise, and pink. These are precious collector-grade colors. When picking out your ammolite, be sure to rotate the gemstone to see if you can catch a glimpse of these rare colors.

ammolite buying tips rare blue and turquoise color play
Chromatic shift displaying rare blue and turquoise, with a hint of pink

Ammolite Buying Tips – Brightness of Colors

The iridescence and luster make a big difference in jewelry. While brightness of colors do not matter as much in an ammolite hand-held specimen, since you likely have perfect lighting setup for it. You want the jewelry you wear to pop. Some rare colors like blue and violet are naturally darker. When looking at a piece of ammolite jewelry, try to find a balance so the bright colors balance out the darker, more rare colors.

If the ammolite gemstone is covered by mostly darker colors, then it would be harder to see the jewelry piece unless a light is shining directly on it. The colors of your ammolite jewelry should gleam and catch your eyes even from far away. With proper bright & dark color balance, the ammolite jewelry piece should still stand out.

ammolite fossil gemstone bright iridescence with rare blue
Balancing the darker rare blue with bright red, golden yellow, and green

Ammolite Buying Tips – Number of Colors

The number of colors in an ammolite gemstone determines its grade. In a Standard Grade ammolite gemstone, you can expect to see 1-2 primary colors. An A Grade ammolite gemstone should contain 2+ bright colors. The AA and AAA Grade ammolite gemstones should display 3+ extra bright colors. As you examine an ammolite gemstone, take note of the number of colors and how bright they are. Then rotate it to see its color play, rotational range of colors, and see if you can spot flashes of rare violet, turquoise, crimson, and pink.

ammolite buying tips rare 4 color gemstone 14k jewelry necklace
Rare high quality AA grade 14k gold ammolite necklace with 4 colors

Ammolite Buying Tips – Impurities, Matrix Lines, and Horns

Ammolite is a biogenic gemstone made from fossilized shells of ammonites. Canadian ammonites are prehistoric mollusks that lived in the seas 70+ million years ago. Impurities such as pyrite inclusions, suture patterns, horns, and matrix lines are natural beauties of ammolite. For polished cabochons, hand-held specimens, and freeform necklaces, these impurities add character and historical value to the ammolite gemstones. Horns in particular are extremely rare. They are thought to exist only on shells of one particular ammonite species, the Placenticeras intercalare. Certain suture patterns give off a fiery effect, making an ammolite gemstone look like it is on fire. Some growth lines will show off a wave effect

AA Grade ammolite gemstone hand-polished freeform cabochon many colors rare blue teal
Natural matrix lines are beautiful on polished freeform ammolite specimens

When it comes to fine ammolite jewelry, the higher the grade, the less impurities and matrix lines present. You can see fine matrix lines in AA grade ammolite gemstones. However they should not be overpowering or interfere with the ammolite’s iridescence. In general you should look for little to no impurities in high grade gold and silver rings and pendants. Unless the impurities enhance the gemstone, such is the case with patterns that give off a fiery effect. The bottom line is, if an ammolite gemstone speaks to you, then it’s the right one. No two ammolite gemstones are alike. What you purchase will always be unique to you.

Ammolite Buying Tips – Diamond, Sapphire, and Topaz Accents

While ammolite jewelry is beautiful on its own, many jewelers opt to incorporate accents to accentuate and complement the ammolite gemstones. Most common are diamond, sapphire, and topaz accents. These gemstones are used because they are hardy; diamond scores a 10 on Mohs scale, sapphire a 9, while topaz scores 8 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This means diamond, sapphire, and topaz can not be scratched by steel knives and glass. They are even harder than quartz, which scores 7 on Mohs scale. The luster and hardiness of diamond, sapphire, and topaz make them popular accents for ammolite jewelry.

Korite ammolite topaz silver ring white topaz accent
Korite ammolite silver ring with white topaz accent

Light will bounce off the diamond, sapphire, and topaz accents, making your ammolite jewelry sparkle. These gemstones complement the brilliant iridescence of ammolite perfectly. Get your own high quality ammolite jewelry with accent from Korite, the largest producer of gemstone quality ammolite and ammonite fossils. Use this coupon code to get 15% off. This coupon can be applied to on sale items.

Canadian Ammonite – Majestic Iridescent Fossils

Canadian ammonite fossils ammolite

Canadian ammonite fossils are rare and exceptionally scarce specimens unique to the Bearpaw Formation in southern Alberta, Canada. These extinct cephalopods are prized for their vivid iridescent display of colors on their fossilized shells called ammolite. Due to their beauty and scarcity, Canadian ammonite fossils are highly sought-after by museums and collectors world-wide. While ammonites with iridescence have been found elsewhere in Utah, Montana, Saskatchewan, England, Russia, and Madagascar. The depth of colors, brilliance, and vibrancy do not match those ammonite fossils found in southern Alberta, Canada.

Origin and Extinction

ammolite gemstone fossil ammonite rendition
Ammonite rendition by Nobu Tamura

Ammonites first appeared during the Devonian period about 416 million years ago as Bactritida, or straight-shelled cephalopods. They survived three major extinction level events, most notably, the end of the Permian extinction event that wiped out 96% of all marine life. Each time ammonites evolved, they came back with more diverse species and new body structures. The Canadian ammonites we know of today came from the order Ammonitida. These highly evolved ammonoid cephalopods thrived from the Jurassic period through the end of Cretaceous. They hunted the shallow seas of the Western Interior Seaway, a large tropical inland sea that existed during the Cretaceous period. This ancient sea split the continent of North America into two landmasses.

Canadian ammonite fossil western interior seaway
Western Interior Seaway by Scott D. Sampson

The extinction of the ammonites, along with 2/3 of all animals including non-avian dinosaurs, has been attributed to the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event 66 million years ago. It is believed that a large asteroid 10 to 15 kilometer in size (or 6 to 9 mi), crashed into Earth at Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The event was so devastating, it acidified the oceans, caused an ecological collapse, and produced long-lasting effects on the climate.

The K–Pg extinction event can be seen in geological records all over the world as the K-Pg boundary. It is marked by a thin layer of sediment with unusually high levels of the metal iridium, which is more commonly found in asteroids.

Ammolite Ammonite Fossil K-Pg boundary extinction event
K-Pg Boundary seen as gray clay layer, by Mark Wilson

Recent studies show some ammonites may have survived the K-Pg extinction event, they’re called Paleocene ammonites. These ammonites lived for a short period of time during the Paleocene epoch, although none survived the Danian period (61 million years ago).

ammolite fossils geological timescale mass extinction events
Geological Timescale

Canadian Ammonite – Geology

The Bearpaw Formation is located just east of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta, Canada. This geological location is famous for its well-preserved Canadian ammonite fossils. Ammonites were once living creatures that swam in the oceans millions of years ago. When they died, their shells sank to the ocean floor and were covered by sediments. Over time, the sediments turned into shale, and the ammonite shells fossilized and bonded with the shale. Today, visitors to the Bearpaw Formation can see the fossilized remains of these ancient creatures.

The Bearpaw Formation is unique in that it was formed during a time of intense plate tectonic activity and volcanic eruptions. The volcanic ash that settled and buried the ammonites preserved their shells so well that the aragonite on the shells did not turn into calcite. Over millions of years of heat, pressure, and mineralization, the conditions were just right for ammolite gemstones to form on the fossilized ammonite shells. The brilliant iridescence of ammolite on Canadian ammonite fossils is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Mining Zones

There are two layers in the Bearpaw Formation where Canadian ammolite and ammonite fossils can be found; the K Zone, and the Blue Zone. The K Zone lies 15 meters below the surface, and extends 30 meters down. Ammonite and ammolite found in the K Zone are often crushed and highly fractured. The specimens in this layer are covered in siderite concretions, and they produce the most “dragon scale” ammolite with heavy matrix lines present. Most of the ammolite on the market is from the K Zone due to its ease of mining.

Roughly 20-65 meters further down under the K Zone is the Blue Zone. This zone is where they mine the highest gemstone quality ammolite and ammonite fossils. Specimens in this layer are covered by a layer of iron pyrite. This results in less pressure and less fracturing of the ammolite and ammonite specimens. The Blue Zone is where Korite finds what they would call “sheet ammolite”. These are specimens with the highest grade quality and the best iridescence.

Canadian ammonite fossils ammolite vibrant iridescence
Blue Zone ammonite fossil with vibrant iridescence

Korite, the largest miner of ammolite, produces over 90% of the world’s supply of ammolite. Only 50% of the ammolite mined is gemstone quality, and out of those, only 3-12% are of AA and AAA quality gemstones. Korite practices ethical mining, and is certified by the Federal Department of Canadian Heritage. Once a mining operation is finished, the land is restored and reclaimed to its natural state.

Ready to purchase your own top grade Blue Zone Canadian ammonite fossil? Be sure to check out our Ammolite Buying Tips article. Use our referral code and get 15% off. This Korite coupon works for on sale items, take 15% off on top of existing low sales prices.

Canadian ammonite fossils ammolite Korite mining operations bearpaw formation
Korite mining operations in the Bearpaw Formation

Canadian Ammonite – Species

There are three main species of Canadian ammonite fossils being mined in the Bearpaw Formation. These species are Placenticeras meeki (common), Placenticeras costatum (rare), and Placenticeras intercalare (rare). Placenticeras intercalare is highly sought-after by collectors due to their horns, or protrusions on their shells. It is a distinctive trait unique to Placenticeras intercalare species.

All Canadian ammonites can exhibit suture lines. Suture patterns indicate where the ammonite’s septa joins the outer shell-wall, showing you their complex gas chambers. These beautiful suture patterns are used to identify different species of ammonites. Over millions of years, suture patterns have evolved from simple lobes to complex shapes. This allows geologists and paleontologists to date the fossil specimens and the formations surrounding them.

Three major types of suture patterns are found in the Ammonoidea:

  • Goniatitic – numerous undivided lobes and saddles; typically 8 lobes around the conch. This pattern is found on ammonoid cephalopods that form the order Goniatitida. These ammonites thrived during the mid Devonian about 398 million years ago. They survived the end of the Devonian extinction event, only to become extinct at the end of Permian.
  • Ceratitic – rounded undivided saddles, with subdivided tips on the lobes. This suture pattern belongs to Ceratites, they are cephalopods that thrived during the Triassic period. This genus of ammonites was only found in the German Basin, a partially isolated shallow sea spanning across Europe at the time.
  • Ammonitic – highly subdivided lobes and saddles, rounded with fluted patterns. This suture pattern is characteristic of Jurassic and Cretaceous ammonites, although they date all the way back to the Permian period.
Canadian ammonite fossils suture patterns
Ammonite suture patterns by Antonov

In good polished specimens, suture patterns can be preserved and are prized by collectors. Important to note that these suture patterns could not be seen when ammonites were alive. They would be hidden on the inside of the outer-shell walls. Suture patterns in ammonite fossils are only exposed when the outer shells are worn off or polished.

ammolite fossils agatized madagascar ammonite
Agatized ammonite from Madagascar cut and polished showing gas chambers filled with Agate crystals
Agatized ammonite from Madagascar with Suture Marks
Same ammonite outer shell showing exposed suture patterns under the shell
Canadian ammonite fossils preserved suture marks
Preserved suture marks on genuine high quality Canadian ammonite

Purchasing Canadian Ammonite

Ready to start collecting these magnificent Canadian ammonite fossils? Be sure to check out our Ammolite Buying Guide. There are a few things you need to know. The Canadian government considers the ammonites found in the Bearpaw Formation part of “the National Treasures of Canada”. In order to mine in the Bearpaw Formation, you must have a permit. All ammonites must be inspected and registered by the Alberta provincial government before they can be collected and sold. Once registered, each Canadian ammonite fossil will be assigned a number and be recorded in the provincial database. Prior to shipping an ammonite out of Canada, an export permit must also be obtained with buyer’s information recorded.

When purchasing a Canadian ammonite outside of Canada, be sure to ask for a certificate of authenticity. The ammonite should come with a government registration number, and an export permit. Some larger ammonite fossils from Madagascar can look like Canadian ammonites. Dishonest dealers have been known to sell “fake” Canadian ammonite fossils, because Canadian ammonites are valued much higher than ammonites from other parts of the world.

Purchase Canadian ammonite fossils from Korite, the leading supplier of high grade ammolite and ammonite. Use our referral code and get 15% off on your purchases from Korite.

ammolite fossil iridescent madagascar ammonite
Polished iridescent ammonite fossil from Madagascar

The aragonite layer on Madagascar ammonites are not thick enough to produce gem quality ammolite. The color depths, vibrancy, and iridescence also do not compare to Canadian ammonite fossils. The lack of color play is also evident. Care must be taken as fraudulent dealers can be found both online on sites like Ebay, as well as in local mineral shows.

canadian ammonite fossil madagascar specimen
Canadian ammonite fossil (left), ammonite from Madagascar (right)

Canadian Ammonite Fossils – A Video Production

This is a well made video production explaining the origin story of ammolite. It includes interviews with members of the Blood Tribe as well as Korite. Highly recommended.

Learn more about Canadian ammonite fossils