What is Ammolite?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ammolite is an iridescent gemstone which originates primarily in the Rocky Mountains of North America, although limited deposits can also be found in other regions of the world. This gemstone is also referred to as korite, aapoak, calcenite, or gem ammonite. This gemstone has been used in jewelry since the late 1960s, and was officially granted status as a gemstone in the 1980s, making it one of the more recent gems on the market.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Although ammolite wasn't recognized as a gemstone until the 20th century, the origins of this gemstone are ancient. It is made from the mineralized remains of ammonites, sea creatures which became extinct millions of years ago. In the right conditions, the shells of ammonites were covered in layers of sediment, and a very slow process of mineral deposition fossilized the shells, turning them into ammolite. Around half of the ammolite recovered in mining operations is considered “gem grade,” with most coming from Canada.

The iridescent appearance of this gem is created by the refraction of light as it passes through the layers in the fossil. The layers are extremely thin and prone to cracking and flaking, but they can produce a range of colors including blue, violet, green, red, and pink. Red to green patterns are most common. Since this material is so fragile, it is usually sold with a supportive backing, which may consist of the stone the ammolite was found in, or of a replacement backing such as shale or even glass.

Ammolite is often sold in the form of triplets, stones which include a backing, the ammolite itself, and a protective crystal cap. It is around a four on the Mohs Scale, and triplets have an increased hardness of seven to eight, making them much sturdier. Care must still be taken to avoid exposing pieces to harsh chemicals and excessive sunlight, as the stone is prone to fading and flaking even with a protective cap.

The opalescent look of this material leads many people to compare it to opal or mother of pearl, and in fact the primary mineral present in ammolite is the same mineral which gives mother of pearl its luminescent glow. Most classically, it is sold in the form of polished cabochons which are used in necklaces, earrings, and brooches. Rings made from this mineral must be carefully designed to protect the stone, as rings are subject to more trauma than other jewelry.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@simrin-- Yes, it is believed that ammolite reflects positive energy/light and so will have a positive effect on people carrying or wearing the gem.

It is said that the red in ammolite brings love, the yellow brings wealth and the blue brings health. The stone itself brings positivity and luck to whoever wears it.

It's a really popular gem among feng-shui practitioners, wiccans and fortunetellers as well.


My husband brought back an ammolite ring for me as a birthday present. He was in Canada for a conference and said he saw the ammolite at a jewelry store and thought I would like it.

I do love the ring, it's very pretty. It has some other small crystal stones around the ammolite and the ring itself is white gold. I love it but apparently it cost my husband a fortune! I know mine is a bit on the pricier side because of the white gold. But I saw a sterling silver one online and even that costs a lot!

The other issue is that it's a very delicate and fragile like the article mentioned. My husband said I have to take it off when I'm washing my hands or washing dishes or it will scratch and break. I already forgot to do that a couple of times and now there is a tiny scratch on it. It's just very annoying to have to take it off all the time.

I think this ring is for wearing on special occasions. I kind of wish my husband hadn't gotten it. If I had been with him, I wouldn't have let him pay so much for something so fragile.


I was at an open market the other day and there were a lot of artisans selling jewelry and stones there. The ammolite jewelry immediately grabbed my attention even though I had no idea what it was.

It's really a gorgeous gem. Some of the ammolite in the necklaces and rings I saw had so many colors in them, it felt like looking at a rainbow. It's breathtaking because the colors sort of fade into one another and there are no clear lines separating them.

When I looked at one closely, I could see the red fading into orange, then green and yellow, orange again and finally blue. It was just beautiful. The artisan who was selling it told me that the colors of ammolite all carry different meanings, although I don't remember what all they were.

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