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"NEW" Gemstones

I recently returned from a wonderful cruise to Alaska. Among other things, they were pushing HARD for purchase of the “rare” gemstones ammolite and tanzanite. None were offered unset; only in jewelry. Not knowing enough about these items, I did not purchase. Did I miss an opportunity of a lifetime, or dodge a bullet? Are you using these stones in your work?

Karen Minturn Brown
Livonia, MI

I learned recently that the “stores” they are asking you to buy from are
not independent B&M stores. They are owned by the ship lines, interesting
“Ammolite” as I have heard, are in diminishing supply. I would prefer to
buy from a reputable supplier, not a cruise-line owned store! Just my two
Canadian cents of info.

Gerry Lewy
Toronto, Ontario.

1 Like


 As an Alaskan myself I'm glad you enjoyed your cruise to our magnificent state. I'm also glad you had the good judgement to avoid the overpriced jewelry commonly sold on the ships. First, Alaska is not, at least so far, particularly known for it's gemstones. We do have some nephrite jade, some of which is quite nice and some garnet, agate and a few others, but not ammonite nor tanzanite. The ammonite comes from Canada and the tanzanite from Africa. The  stores touted by the cruise lines in the big cruise ports like Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, etc. are for the most part owned by the cruise companies. They are best avoided. Ammonite comes from Canada and is not particularly expensive, nor is it particularly durable. I'd suggest you check it out on ebay. It is not in diminishing supply either. Production is being expanded at this time according to the company that mines it. 

Jerry in Kodiak (Alaska)

Jerry again,

 I just finished writing a response to Karen's post and I see that the only part that was printed  was the first line. The body of the post had to do with the fact that the cruise lines were cheating their customers by selling over priced jewelry, in this case ammolitel. What happened to the rest of my post?

Jerry in Kodiak

Ammonite is common and inexpensive; ammolite, however, is more rare and more expensive.


Good quality ammolite is very expensive, as is tanzanite. I would suspect that anything purchased on a cruise ship would have extra middlemen and therefore be more expensive than they need be. I do use these stones in my jewelry, and good quality ones are spectacular.

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 I beg to differ. "Ammolite" is the trade name for the nacreous layer of the fossilized shell of a prehistoric creature called an "Ammonite" It is only found in one location and that is in southern Alberta Canada. Some some of the material coming from the same specimen of ammonite may be more attractive than that coming from another part and may be sold for more money, but basically it is all the same. It is inexpensive material, but I guess it all depends on the person selling it, eh? Google it.

Jerry in Kodiak

Cruise ship jewelry is infamous to other jewelers and goldsmiths. My experience says you dodged a bullet. You can find both stones from many suppliers that you can then compare and decide where to spend your dollars.

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I think ammolite jewelry is an ideal souvenir for someone visiting Canada or going past it on a ship. It’s lightweight and doesn’t take up much space in one’s travel bags and it’s unique to Canada. In Alberta and probably on a cruise ship, there is generally a better selection of ammolite than in your local jewelry stores. For trade members they get better buys and have a wide selection of ammolite jewelry and loose stones at the Tucson AGTA and Pueblo shows.
As for tanzanite, if you’re not in Africa, you may as well buy it at a gem show or in your hometown.
If you’d like more information on ammolite and tanzanite, consult Exotic Gems: Volume 1 which has a 30-page chapter on tanzanite and other zoisites as well as a 10-page chapter on ammolite. For more information and trade reviews, go
Renee Newman


Yes, Jerry, I know ammolite’s origin is ammonite, and I know its relatively higher cost.


You dodged a bullet. Cruise jewelry is waaaay over priced and often of very
low quality.
We shudder whenever someone brings us cruise jewelry. And often cringe
when we hear how much they paid for it especially “duty free” stuff at some
ports of call.
-Jo Haemer

Thank you for your thoughts on this. They were pushing Ammolite so hard, I was almost certain it was overpriced for the value. It certainly is a beautiful stone, but they were trying to convince us it would not be available much longer. That combined with no internet access, I decided to pass. Perhaps I will get a loose stone at some point for my own work. Tanzanite is very pretty, too, but not nearly as valuable as they were making it out to be. I don’t think I missed anything! OTOH, I did get some lovely pieces of work by native/first nations artists. @jholtak, Jerry in Kodiak, all of your very helpful post showed up in my Digest version.

Karen Minturn Brown
Livonia, MI

For fun I will take my loop with me to look at jewelry on a cruise…Rob

“Loop”? How about your “Loupe”…LOL

Gerry Lewy
Toronto, Ontario.

Loupe will help, ask if you can clean it with some acetone, maybe the polish would go away, lol.

Ive done a couple of lecture tours on cruise ships. There are no bargains to be had. Tanzanite sells at full retail in East Africa.

Go to the wholesale market.


Richard, RE: "I’ve done a couple of lecture tours on cruise ships. There are no bargains to be had. Tanzanite sells at full retail in East Africa. Go to the wholesale market."
I agree that a person shouldn’t expect to find a bargain on a cruise ship and that tanzanite sells at full retail in retail shops in Tanzania. It’s also true that tanzanite sells for full retail at most retail jewelry stores in the US and Europe, especially in upscale stores. Some stores even triple key their colored gemstone jewelry. No matter where anybody is, a wholesaler can usually offer much lower prices than a retailer, but that doesn’t mean we should advise everybody to avoid buying jewelry in retail jewelry stores.
Tourists often want a remembrance of their trip. For people who don’t have access to wholesalers, a gemstone from the country or a piece of jewelry set with such a gemstone can be an appropriate lasting remembrance of their trip and a better use of their money then many souvenir items that are offered.
Smart travelers will educate themselves before their trip about the gemstones found in the countries where they are travelling. They can do this by reading books such as yours and mine and by going to jewelry stores in their hometown beforehand to check on the availability and pricing of the gems. When it comes to a stone such as ammolite, they’ll probably find a better selection in Alberta or on an Alaskan cruise ship than in their local jewelry store. But of course, if they are a trade member, they’ll have an even better selection at the Tucson gem shows and pay a lot less.
Renee Newman

Thanks! I knew there was something wrong with that post after I sent it. Glad I could give you a laugh.

When I’m asked for advice about buying jewelry on a cruise, which happens pretty frequently, I tell people to stick with the retailers that the cruise line recommends or buy from the cruise line, That’s the only way they can be assured of any recourse if there ever is an issue.

I also tell them that there’s no such thing as “buying at wholesale” from any retailer, here or abroad, so it’s fine to buy a momento, but don’t make a major purchase because you think that you’re going to get a good deal because you’re closer to the source. You won’t. There won’t be anybody to talk to if there is a problem. I recommend that they treat any purchase they make abroad as a gamble,just like if they are playing in the casino.

When you are away from your local market, only spend what you can afford to lose.


I agree you dodged a bullet. The pressure to buy was the first clue. Finished ammolite, set in jewellery will be expensive. I doubt the setting on a cruise ship is of good quality. Ammolite may someday no longer be available but I doubt that that is in our lifetime. I often buy from a friend who lives on the Blackfoot Reserve, where ammolite is mined. The material I acquire has a lot of host rock on it still. I know less about Tanzanite however, I do know it is not found in Alaska so how would that be a momento of a trip there?