Ammolite to become an official provincial emblem

Editor’s note: The banner image above was reproduced with permission from Heritage Auctions, Bearpaw Ammonites, Ammonite Rainbow, UrbaKnight, and I.M. Chait Gallery.

Today, the Minister of Culture tabled Bill 6, paving the way to create a provincial gemstone and make ammolite Alberta’s official gemstone. Ammolite is an iridescent gemstone formed from the fossilized shells of molluscs, known as ammonites. Ammolite is found and mined almost exclusively in the Alberta Rockies. Ammonite shells have been collected by Plains First Nations for a thousand years, and are still collected by Blackfoot communities for sacred purposes.

You’ve probably already seen some of the other “official emblems” of Alberta. The Wild Rose, our floral emblem, was designated way back in 1930. If you’ve ever walked though rough fescue, seen a Great Horned Owl or Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep, well, you’ve seen other official emblems of Alberta.

Back in 2018, archaeologist Dr. Todd Kristensen wrote an article about ammolite for RETROactive, covering hundreds of millions of years of history. Read Rainbow Fossils and Bison Calling to learn more about what could soon become Alberta’s official gemstone.

Rainbow Fossils and Bison Calling

For an animal that looks like an awkward collision of snail and squid (Figure 1), ammonites have played surprisingly important roles in international history. To Blackfoot First Nations on the Plains of North America, the ornate edges of ammonite segments resemble miniature bison (sometimes called buffalo), and, for over a thousand years, they have been used in ceremonies to summon bison spirits. Across the ocean, 16th to 19th Century fossil hunters propelled ammonites into palaeontological fame by using them to anchor theories of an ancient earth (Figure 2). In modern Alberta, Canada, miners and members of Blackfoot First Nations are seeking iridescent ammonites to fuel a global demand for art and jewellery; sacred and secular, and now economic, ammonites are immersed in a complex story. Read more