Table of contents

Posted by

Ron Orr

Date

March 17, 2022

Topic

Arts and culture

On March 17, 2022, I tabled Bill 6, the Emblems of Alberta Amendment Act in the provincial legislature. Once passed, this amendment will recognize ammolite as the official gemstone of Alberta. A beautiful gem, ammolite is as unique as Alberta’s identity and a part of our shared heritage.

Ammonites, from which ammolite is derived, were molluscs that were abundant during the Late Cretaceous more than 70 million years ago. Though ammonites were common in Late Cretaceous oceans, only those that inhabited the inland Bearpaw Sea in the foothills of southern Alberta became the iridescent gem-quality ammolite. At the end of their lifespan, these ammonites fell to the sea floor and were covered with mud that hardened over millions of years to become shale. Geological conditions unique to southern Alberta combined with the shell properties transformed some ammonites into the beautiful iridescent ammolite mined and used in jewellery today.

From a cultural perspective, the tribes of the Blackfoot confederacy of southern Alberta revere ammonite. Some ammonite segments resemble buffalo and are sacred to Blackfoot, and symbolize the good fortune needed in the hunt to provide for the tribe’s prosperity and survival.

Economically, the ammolite industry is important to First Nations and the mining industry. First Nations prospectors have been surface mining this beautiful stone for decades.

Ammolite’s gem quality is based on its colour spectrum and brightness. The ammolite from shallower layers of sediment is of a lower grade and consists of red and green colours, while the higher grade gems are deeper and include blue and purple hues. The rarest and highest grade of ammolite consists of combinations of all these primary colours. Ammolite of this quality is usually found in art installations and galleries, including exhibits at the Royal Alberta Museum and Royal Tyrrell Museum, rather than in jewellery stores.

As ammolite shows, Alberta has a unique and colourful history we are often unaware of. As with this gemstone, we need to recognize the value of all aspects of Alberta’s history and work at making it shine bright for all to see.

  • Photo of Minister Ron Orr

    Ron Orr

    Ron Orr was appointed Minister of Culture on July 8, 2021.

    Learn more

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