Amazing Ammonites!

When I was a five-year-old in kindergarten, the teacher went around the room and asked what each of us wanted to be when we grew up. When she came to me, I stood up and proudly said, "I want to be a paleontologist!" What my teacher didn't know was that I devoured books about dinosaurs as eagerly as a velociraptor eating a brontosaurus egg. I decided early on that I wanted to be one of those scientists who spent their days outside, digging up dinosaur bones and making new discoveries about these amazing creatures that lived so long ago.

Ammonites can be found in all parts of the world. They got their name from the ancient Romans, who called them ammonis cornua, thinking that their curved shells resembled tightly coiled ram's horns worn by the Egyptian god Ammon. Scientifically speaking, ammonites are what are referred to as index fossils because finding them in a certain rock layer almost always connects that rock layer to a specific period in geological history.

Certain ammonites from Madagascar and Alberta, Canada show beautiful iridescent colors when they are polished. Other ammonites, when preserved in clay, have had their original mother of pearl coating preserved. And while some ammonites are only an inch or two in size, the largest documented ammonite was discovered in British Columbia (Canada) and measured an impressive seven and a half feet long!

So from that first declaration in my kindergarten class, we can fast forward twenty-something years, and here I am, in full-on bead lust, discovering that I can use beads made from ancient fossils in my beading projects! Just a few weeks ago, I added some new ammonite cabochons to my collection. Here are some of my favorites, new and old, from my stash of beads and jewelry-making supplies:

My latest ammonite find is this set of handmade raku ammonite cabochons with fine silver accents from Maku Studios. I just love the creamy colors in these handmade ceramic cabochons, and they are much lighter than I thought they would be. The tiny ammonite cabochons will make a perfect pair of shoulder-sweeping earrings to match whatever design I can come up with for the larger focal cabochon. I'll have to raid my stash of teeny, tiny shell beads for this one!
I had never seen a strand of ammonite beads until I ran across these being offered from BeadsOnSale. They were so reasonably priced, I just had to have them. Because these are genuine ammonites, they are extremely heavy, so I think a full strand of them as a beaded necklace is out of the question. But I can picture using one of the larger ammonite beads as a focal, or two of the smaller ones as accents in a beaded necklace.
The very first time I attended Bead Fest Philadelphia, I discovered the wonderful work of lapidary artist Gary Wilson. I bought a handful of his gorgeous cabochons and went home to turn them into some of my favorite beaded necklaces. I made sure to stop by Gary's booth the last time I was at Bead Fest, and I came away with this beautiful ammonite pendant. This is one of those fantastic bead buys that I need to hold on to for several years before I figure out how to use it in a piece of beaded jewelry. For now, I just enjoy looking at it on my work table or holding it in my hand. (The iridescent coloring in the shell means that this is an ammonite from either Alberta, Canada or Madagascar!)
This sweet little pair of ammonites came from the Syracuse gem and mineral show. There's no better place for finding unique and high-quality fossils like ammonites than your local gem and mineral show! The design challenge with these ammonites is that the front is smooth and flat while the back is rounded. I've had an idea to stitch up a beaded bezel for them using circular netting. Whether I'll use them as a pair of beaded earrings or as accents in a beaded necklace remains to be seen!

Do you find yourself gravitating towards fossils and gemstones for your beadwork? Share your favorites here and leave a comment! Or take a picture of your favorite beading project made with an ammonite (or another fossil) and post it in the Reader Photo Gallery!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer

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