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Local ammolite experts featured in Canadian book

Rimbey fossil hunters and ammolite experts, Cecil Lundrigan and Jennifer Robak are featured in the book, Ammolite 3 Ancient Fossil Fire Book by Donna Barnson.

The husband-and-wife team have been digging up fossils and introducing them to the world for the past few years and after a lot of work are being recognized for their specimens and efforts.

“There is a gemologist out of Manitoba that has been working on a series of books that was looking for people in the field to give her more information,” said Robak. “This is the first time for us being published and it’s taken a while to compile the book.”

Lundrigan has been working with fossils for about six years. Currently, he is part of C&J Fossils, which specializes in fossil prep and sales.

Robak and her family have been involved in the ammolite and ammonite world for about 30, herself personally for 10 years.

Robak runs the Ammonite World Storefront and her parents operate Ammonite World in Rimbey.

Ammolite is the shell of the ammonite. Ammonite was an extinct group of mollusks that died out at the end of the Cretaceous Period around 65 million years ago. When they went extinct they were deposited at the bottom of the ocean and covered with sediment and after being buried for millions of years, the remains of these marine organisms fossilized and left behind shells which are found throughout the world.

In some parts of Southern Alberta, their shell had a colourful layer which over the course of time through geological and mineralogical processes has become a gemstone called, ammolite.

The best grade of gem quality Ammolite is usually along high energy river systems on the eastern slopes of the Rockies in southern Alberta.

Most commercial mining operations have been conducted along the banks of the St. Mary’s River south of Lethbridge. 75 to 70 million years ago, that area was the north-western edge of the Bearpaw Sea.

Once the pieces have been recovered Lundrigan gets to works exposing the fossil. Once cleaned up, the ammolite is polished and usable in the retail market. The time to prepare a piece depends on the size and condition when found.

Robak and Lundrigan have special mining rights for a claim near Bow Island, in a formation that extends from Alberta to Saskatchewan in Canada and to Montana in the USA, known as the Bearpaw formation. It’s the only place ammolite is found.

“You have to be on a reserve, there are legal permits and only 30 people have reserve permits and about five or six companies with claims,” said Lundrigan.

Because ammolite and ammonites are technically fossils, the pair often work closely with archaeologists and museums.

“For us, being a claim owner, we have to send every piece through Tyrell Museum in Drumheller and they permit us, if it’s okay to keep or if it’s something really rare, then they keep it. We only have the rights to pick the ammonites itself, anything else else on the claim we don’t have the right to pick or keep,” he said.

The gemstone has gained popularity in the feng shui field.

It purportedly enhances the flow of ‘Qi’ (pronounced chi) throughout the body which lowers toxicity levels and promotes over all well-being. Feng shui masters also believe that ammonites hold the absorbed knowledge of the universe.

Ammolites’ rainbow of colours is also considered auspicious. Wealth, creativity, intellect, energy and wisdom are all thought to be stimulated and enhanced by Ammolite.

There is a long list of different ammolite patterns including: Dragon Skin, Feather, Lava Lamp, Tin Foil, Paintbrush, Floral, Pinfire and Christmas Tree.

It is also used in jewelry and home decor.

“It’s rare around the world but around here it’s pretty common,” said Lundrigan. “It’s a piece of Alberta’s history too. For (Indigenous peoples) it’s part of their culture, they call it ‘Buffalo Stone.’ It’s sacred to them and spiritual and brings good luck.”

The book can be purchased through the Ammolite World Storefront.


(Photo submitted)