The Blackfoot people have known about iridescent ammonite fossils for hundreds of years. They called the material "Iniskim" (meaning "buffalo stone") and used it as a talisman. These distinctly bright, beautiful and iridescent colours are considered a rare and national treasure by the Canadian government. All Canadian ammonites are individually numbered and recorder in a provincial database. These exceptionally scarce Canadian Ammonites are sought by museums and private collectors the world over.
Scientists from the Canadian Geological Survey described iridescent ammonite shells in 1908, but the first exhibition of iridescent ammonite in lapidary projects did not occur until 1962, when cut gems were mounted in jewelry and exhibited in a small gem show in Nanton, Alberta. Ammolite is formed from an ancient marine fossil ammonite. Although sources of ammonite exist in other locations around the globe, it is only in one isolated region of southern Alberta that this deposit produces the gemstone Ammolite.
In 1967, Marcel Charbonneau, owner of a Calgary rock shop, began assembling doublets of iridescent ammonite shell on matrix with a clear quartz cover and calling them "Ammolite." The material quickly became popular. In 1981, Ammolite was recognized as a gemstone by CIBJO Colored Stones Commission brought international attention to Ammolite and in 2004 it was named as the official gemstone of the Province of Alberta.
The World Jewellery Confederation classifies Ammolite as a true gem, one of only three named in the last 300 years. The rolling terrain around the St. Mary River provides the setting for mining to uncover a rich deposit of the gem. Since the City of Lethbridge designated Ammolite as its Official Gemstone on April 30, 2007, interest in Ammolite and the International mining operation of the gem just south of Lethbridge has grown.
For residents and visitors looking for a precious stone to call their own, Ammolite gems are now 30% off at the Galt Museum Store for the month of August.