Millions of years ago, the land which is now southern Alberta was covered by a vast, shallow sea, that thrived with marine life. Ammonites shared this environment with sharks, turtles, plesiosaurs and mosasaurs, as well as lobsters, oysters and clams. It is believed that ammonite was the mosasaur's favorite food, since many shells are found with bite marks thought to be caused by these giant lizard-like creatures. Ammonites lived through the Mesozoic Era, until the late Cretaceous, about 65 million years ago, when a cataclysmic event eradicated much of the life on Earth. They were fossilized in a rock formation known as bearpaw shale, and preserved and transformed into the radiant multi-colored stones we call ammolite.
The first people to collect ammolite were the Blackfoot Indians, who called it iniskim, or buffalo stone, and for many generations have considered it to bring luck and hold spiritual qualities.
In 1908, Dr. Dowling from the Canadian Geological Survey team documented finding ammonites in the area of the St. Mary's River, near Lethbridge, Alberta.
First dubbed "ammolite" in 1967, by a Calgary rockshop owner, this beautiful stone's source was at first a mystery to the early rockhounds and collectors who were fortunate enough to see it. That's because the outcroppings were located in remote and largely innaccessible areas on farms south of Lethbridge, Alberta. Some local lapidaries experimented with this unusual stone in the 1960's and 70's, but it wasn't until the late seventies and early eighties that true mining ventures began.
In 1981, ammolite was officially recognized as a gemstone by the CIBJO Nomenclature Committee, an international association which bears responsibility for the scientific names of new gems. Since then it has been gaining ever widening acceptance as the beautiful gem it is, and a worthy addition to any collection.
Although ammonites are found virtually worldwide, only in a small region of southern Alberta are they found in this magnificent gem quality. It has been said that ammolite is the rarest gem in the world, and it may well be true.