They're the prize in a pirate's treasure. The sparkle atop a royal crown that's been worn for generations. The adornments in the tombs of kings and queens.
Rubies. Sapphires. Emeralds. Diamonds. For centuries, these stones have been the standard measure of wealth. But look out, topaz. Hold on there, amythest. There's a new gemstone on the block, and it's mighty pretty. And you can only find it in one place in the world: Southern Alberta.
A rainbow gem
Ammolite is a gem that is a brilliant mix of different colours. Pretty much all colours, in fact. Blue, red, green, gold, orange...all of these and more can be found within this incredible stone. In this way, it's a little like the opal.
And just like the opal, which is famously found only in Australia, ammolite is unique to one location. The Korite mine in Alberta is struggling (happily) to keep up with the demand for its prize gem. And when you see the processed, or finished, gems, you can understand why.
Ammonites + time = ammolite
So how was it made? Ammolite may be a new discovery, but like most gems, it's the end product of millions of years of pressure within the Earth's crust. This stone was actually made by ancient squid-like creatures called ammonites. (Nope, that's not a typo! Ammonites were the prehistoric creatures. Ammolite is the gem.)
An ammonite was a mollusk covered in a spiral shell. They once lived in great numbers in shallow seas across the world. In fact, the Korite mine would have been at the bottom of one of these seas 70 million years ago. The shells of the ammonites are what was crushed into this new precious stone. Today it is found in between dark, thin sheets of rock called shale.
Canada 150 gives gem a boost
The Korite mine is also getting a lot of extra orders thanks to Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations. The gem's Canadian roots make it an awesome fit as the official supplier of keepsakes and jewelry for Canada 150.
"It's like nothing else on earth," said Korite's president Jay Maull to the CBC. "It has more colours than any other gemstone in the world."
You could say that ammolite is all right!