The fossils covered below range from five hundred to five hundred million years old, and are found all over the world. These are not the only suitable fossils for jewelry making; other fossils available are the various bones and teeth of dinosaurs, ancient sharks and the fossil remains of plants. The fossils that are covered here are: fossilized walrus tusk, ancient mammoth tusk, amber, trilobites, orthoceras, ammonites and ammolites.
Ancient fossilized ivory is any type of ivory that is over three hundred years old and possibly more than a million years old. We use only ancient fossilized ivory due to the destruction of life required for attaining fresh ivory. The ancient ivory used in our jewelry production is one of two types, either fossilized walrus or mammoth tusk.
Fossilized Walrus Ivory (Odobenus Rosmarus) is primarily found both in the ocean and on islands in the Bering Sea, off the coasts of Siberia and Alaska. Some of the fossil weathers out of the ground on its own, however the majority is excavated by Eskimos from their ancestral village sites. The ancient Eskimos often carved walrus tusks to use as ice axes, spear or harpoon tips, fire starters, sled runners, or decorative pieces such as jewelry and figurines. We primarily use the pieces that were left over after the above mentioned tools were created. The amazing colors found in ancient walrus ivories are caused by minerals from the surrounding soil: the browns and oranges by iron and manganese, greens and blues by copper and the rare reds by gold. The USGS has reported that a piece of walrus tusk they carbon dated was thirty thousand years old, however most fossil walrus ivory is between 500 and 3,000 years old and rarely exceeds 10,000 years old.
The fossilized walrus ivory we use in our ivory jewelry can span the neutral tones from creamy white to honey, reddish brown to black, depending on the minerals the walrus tusk was in contact with and the length of time it was in the ground. It is legally obtained from Native owned land and excavated by Eskimo families from old village sites on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska.
Ancient Fossilized/Mineralized Mammoth Tusk (Mammuthus primigenus) is anywhere from 10,000 to possibly a million years old. Woolly mammoth have been extinct for more than 10,000 years, except for a single herd of pygmy mammoth from an isolated Siberian island that totally died out around 3000 years ago.
Zealandia’s mammoth ivory is mostly found as a byproduct of gold mining in Canada and Alaska. In Siberia, where it has been a resource for centuries, it is mined for its own sake, often found in deposits after violent winter storms have revealed a portion of the material sticking up from the permafrost near ancient lake beds. The Russians have been industrious in developing a world market for their ivories.... the US, and Canada lag far behind. Coloration occurs from the same minerals that affect walrus ivory. See Ivory Ethics for more extensive information on identifying mammoth ivory.
We use mammoth ivory for our beloved polar bear jewelry, or when we want a nice creamy skin tone. Occasionally we will use mammoth ivory from Siberia, which is generally whiter than North American mammoth ivory from resting in ice rather than soil.
Amber is tree resin that has fossilized over several million years; younger tree resin that has hardened recently is called copal. The species of trees that produced amber included cedars/conifers and some broadleaved trees, and are now extinct. Many of the insects, leaves, flowers, and small animals that have been found in amber are not only extinct, but they also still have some of their DNA intact. In an amber bed in New Jersey over 100 unknown and extinct species of Cretaceous were found, some over 93 million years old. Amber has been used in jewelry since the Bronze Age (2500-500 BC); and can be found ranging from transparent to cloudy, in hues of yellow, green, blue and red.
Ammonites are extinct members of the Cephalopod class, and vary in size from as large as 1.7 m (5.6 ft) in diameter, to as small as 2 cm (0.75 in) in diameter. The name "ammonite" is derived from the ancient Egyptian god Ammon, who considered them to be divine. He is represented by the head of a ram with twisted spiral horns, reminiscent of the twisted shells of the ammonite. Ammonites thrived from around 435 million years ago (the Silurian period), and were widespread and abundant till about 65 million years ago (the Cretaceous period). During the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, ammonites evolved more streamlined shells for swimming and the structure of their shells became stronger. Different shell shapes also emerged, such as snail-like or uncoiled. The Ammonites we use at Zealandia are from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
Ammolite is an Ammonoid that obtained a rainbow hue through contact with various minerals over millions and millions of years. In 1981, the International Commission for Colored Stones accepted ammolite as an organic precious stone. The difference between an ammonite and an ammolite is all in the shell; ammolites have a three layer shell, the middle is formed from small plates that overlap and are held together by an organic substance called conchiolin (this layer is the same for both ammonites and ammolites). The upper and lower layers in an ammolite shell are composed of columnar micro crystals of aragonite (a calcium carbonate of low stability). In ammonite the aragonite has transformed over millions of years into calcite (a stable calcium carbonate) exhibiting less iridescent colors than ammolite. The Ammolite we use at Zealandia is from Canada.
Trilobites were marine invertebrates that ranged in size from less than ¼ inch (0.6 cm) to over 2 feet (0.6 meters) long and are among the earliest of known arthropods. They evolved over 500 million years ago (the Paleozoic Era), and went extinct 248 million years ago (the late Permian period). Trilobites were very common and very diverse; over 15,000 species of trilobites are known. The different trilobite species probably had different diets; some were herbivores (eating plants), some were detrivores (eating decayed material) and some were scavengers (eating carrion). Ocean dwellers, some could roll up into a defensive ball while others could burrow into the sea floor. It is thought that the evolution of jawed fish in the oceans may have contributed to the decline of trilobites which do not appear to not have had effective protection against predation.
Orthoceras were among the most advanced of the invertebrates having eyes, jaws and a sophisticated nervous system. They are members of the cephalopod class similar to nautilus, squid and octopus. Now extinct, the Orthoceras meaning "straight horn" thrived about 345 - 395 million years ago (the Devonian age). They swam freely using a jet propulsion system by squirting water from their bodies. They had tentacles and ink sacs much like the present-day squid. As they died, their shells sank to the sea floor where they were aligned by currents, buried by sediments, and over the ages transformed into the fossils we use today.