“The black you see in these Ammonite fossils is hematite. This is the same mineral I find when I gold pan in Vermont rivers,” explains Silvio.
“It is also called ‘black sand'” adds Steven, a young neighbor who stopped by to visit. “Hematite is an iron. It is lighter than gold so when you gold pan they separate easily,” he adds with the confident tone of an expert. Steven may be twelve or so, but he has researched his favorite topic and understands it as one who naturally grasps the secrets of the earth, because his passion opens his mind to absorb this knowledge. “I love stones,” he explains. “This is why I like to stop by and observe Silvio work.”
Meanwhile, Silvio takes a few more pictures to fully illustrate the nature of the black sand. Here you can see hematite in the raw, polished and residue remaining in the gold pan from last season. Hematite is 70% iron and can be picked up with a magnet.
The Ammonite fossils in the earrings above come from Morocco. Ammonites are extinct molluscs related to present day squids. Ammonite fossils are also known as “index fossils” because their presence in rock layers usually marks specific geological periods. Various species of Ammonites, in fossilized form, are found around the world. They can reach a diameter of 6 feet and more. Hematite is found worldwide as well, notably in areas where there has been standing water or volcanic activity.