Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Vancouver thieves score $500,000 ammolite gemstone

A piece of ammolite 28 centimetres long was stolen from Rocks and Gems Canada in Vancouver’s Gastown district.


It's not a sparkly diamond or a precious sapphire, but police in Vancouver still want to find a stolen gemstone that, in Canadian terms, could rank right up there with the Hope Diamond.

Police are looking for what they say is a rare, opal-like gem that was stolen early Friday morning from a shop in Vancouver's Gastown district.

The front window of Rocks and Gems Canada was smashed, and Vancouver police spokesman Sergeant Randy Fincham said Monday the crook made off with an ammolite piece worth $500,000.

Story continues below advertisement

Ammolite is Alberta's official gemstone. It is also ranked as a Canadian national treasure, meaning the federal government must approve an application before it can be taken out of the country.

The gem is formed from the fossilized shells of extinct marine mollusks known as ammonites and contains the same minerals that make pearls.

Sgt. Fincham said the piece stolen from Rocks and Gems Canada is nearly 28 centimetres long, or about the size of a man's shoe. It is shaped roughly like a helmet and has a colourful, iridescent sheen.

Nothing else was stolen from the store, and it's unclear at this point whether the break-in was targeted, Sgt. Fincham said.

"This was a retail store, so somebody would have the ability to go into that retail store and determine exactly what the value of this item was," he told reporters.

"Obviously it has a limited retail value because it's fairly distinct, so it would be [someone like a] collector possibly that would look at purchasing something like this, as it is such a unique item."

Store employee Zee He said the large gemstone sits behind the store's window, which is protected by stainless steel bars. A piece of plastic board is also put up at night to block people's views from the street.

Story continues below advertisement

"The [ammolite] has been sitting there for a few years now," he said. "The thieves, they know exactly where it's located. The point where they break the piece of window is exactly where the fossil is sitting."

He said there have been several potential buyers over the years, but none has made an offer for the ammolite piece that was close to its market value.

He said ammolites are more than 17 million years old and can be found around the world, especially in Madagascar.

But the one stolen from the store is from southern Alberta, the only area where ammolites with rainbow-coloured shells can be found.

"That's why they're different from anywhere else you see," he said.

"The value is worth anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Story continues below advertisement

Sgt. Fincham said police are reviewing video footage from the area and speaking to witnesses.

The Hope Diamond belongs to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and is not for sale.

Anyone who may have information about the theft or know where the gem can be found are asked to contact the police.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨