Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Incredible World of Ammonites

I have always been fascinated by fossils, and once I discovered ammonites, I feel like I’ve been possessed with fossil fever. Their natural and unusual shapes, colors and sizes create endless opportunities for a variety of one-of-a-kind fossils.


Ammonites got their name from the Egyptian God Ammon, the God of life and procreation, who is often depicted with Rams’ horns behind each ear. The fossil was considered Ammon’s stone, thus inheriting the name. The snail-like spiral curl is the most recognizable attribute of ammonite fossils. To me, that curl is the factor that draws my interest to those seemingly moving fossils.

It is believed that ammonites were free-swimming mollusks living around the same time that dinosaurs walked the earth, and disappearing during the same extinction event. They grew in a range of sizes from a couple of centimeters to over three feet in diameter. How fascinating is it to look at those tiny ammonites and see the amount of detail preserved for all those years.

 Ammonites were pushed up to the surface or washed out into rivers. There is much fascination with these fossils, and some folk lore attributes health, prosperity and good luck to the fossils. Those who believe in the metaphysical aspects of stones, hold that these fossils change negativity into smoothly flowing energy. I don’t claim to be a believer of such qualities, but I do feel a strong attraction to those spiraling chambers, some of which can hold a variety of calcified and colorful remains.


Ammonite fossils are usually cut in half and polished to a high shine on the cut side. The inner sections resemble a nautilus and are often filled with minerals and sometimes druze (crystallized) pockets. The exterior surface sometimes has an iridescent sheen in red, green or amber colors. The underside is usually rounded where it is removed from the stone in which it had fossilized. I love ammonite pendants that have holes drilled across the top because you have access to the under side to enjoy the beauty it brings, and not just the polished smooth inner surface.

While it is said that ammonites are found in every country, there is an abundant amount found in Madagascar, in Africa. Many of the fossils we have found in our travels to the Tucson Gem and Mineral shows have been from Madagascar. However, this supply may be short-lived and it’s only a matter of time before they become scarce and harder to find. This thought sends panic through my body, but I console myself by remembering all the beautiful specimens in my personal collection!

Along with uses such as bead embroidery, wire wrapping, cuff links, I have even seen the larger sizes used as paperweights, sculptures, and objects for home or office decorating. This fascinating remnant of earth’s past living creatures is sure to spark your interest too!