How To Get Rich With Gemstones: A Korite Story

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Dave was an interesting fellow. He was one of those guys that possessed an endless curiosity.  Generally, Dave was a vault of the most useless information known to man, however, Dave and I shared an affinity toward earth science-one of his many hobbies. I came to know Dave from the Medicine Hat Pottery Club and we quickly became good friends, working together on all manner of stoneware and the like. 

Shortly after meeting Dave, I found myself in a vehicle with him, heading south of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada and entering upon the Blood Indian Reserve. David had his spot where he guaranteed we would find not only fossilized raptors’ claws, but also large Ammonite shells. We headed south thru the reserve, to the blood river.  Finally, in the style of Indiana Jones, we propelled down a rope, over the edge of one of the banks along the river. As David promised, there lodged in black shale were some of the largest Ammonite shells I had ever witnessed. Where shells were exposed and hard enough to stay the effects of erosion, they looked like miniature alien spaceships that had crash-landed into the river bank. That was my first encounter with the fossil rich resources of Southern Alberta.  Many tourists wonder at the fascinating discovery housed at the Tyrell museum in Drumheller, Alberta which serves as a final resting home to many of the fossils discovered in the region.

 Image: Keith A. Mychaluk et al (Gems and Gemology, 2001)

Image: Keith A. Mychaluk et al (Gems and Gemology, 2001)

 Image: Mychaluk et al (Gems and Gemology, 2001)

Image: Mychaluk et al (Gems and Gemology, 2001)

Years later, I learned that a few corporations mined Ammonite fossils.  The jewelry product itself, renamed Ammolite, is an opal-like organic gemstone found primarily along the eastern slopes of the Rockies, i.e. Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The fossilized shells of Ammolites, which in turn are composed mainly of Aragonite mineral, are chemically deposited in a replacement process similar to petrified forests. The Ammolite jewelry, fabricated from Ammonite shells, produces a vivid iridescent color. The gem material comes from the extinct species of Ammonite, mainly, Placenticeras Meeki and Placenticeras Intercalare. The Ammonites are approximately 75 million years (found only in certain horizons of the Bearspaw Formation, Late Cretaceous Age). Ammonite itself is a paleontological term applied to a group of extinct marine cephalopods. Its modern day cousins are such shells as Abalone and Paua. But the lumachelle (play of color) in its intensity is a solo characteristic to Alberta fossilized Ammolites.

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The rare Ammonite fossils in this region occur in sufficient quantities to be economically significant. The iridescent layer is fairly soft, thin, and fragile. Because of this quality, most Ammolite is oiled and fashioned into assembled stones. Astute buyers purchase Ammolite jewelry because of the uniqueness and inherent rarity-shoppers and collectors connect rarity to increased value over time. Ammolite jewelry layers are very thin, 0.5-8.0 millimetres before polishing, and 0.1-3.0 millimetres after polishing.  It is estimated that a total of 750,000 pieces of Ammolite jewelry have been produced since its discovery as a gemstone.  That translates to a market size of $200 MM. 

Interestingly, Ammolite initially floundered in its entrance to the business of luxury. The original attempts to manufacture and distribute Ammolite as fine jewelry were made by Marcel Charbonneau, a jewelry store owner in Calgary, and Mike Berisoff, a Calgary geologist. The two entrepreneurs polished and stripped the Ammonite for sale, learning, in time, that their layered jewels would separate (causing buyers much consternation).  The enterprising pair then contacted the Geological Survey of Canada to aid. Berisoff and Charbonneau’s idea was to map and better understand the Ammonite deposit. With government assistance they could then improve the manufacturing and cutting techniques of their sale product. The Geological Survey enlisted the services of Santo Carbone to assist.  And Mr. Carbone was a highly intelligent and experienced geologist.  In a very short time, Carbone solved the manufacturing problems and further defined prospective areas for Ammonite bearing shale.  However, Monsieur Charbonneau and Mr. Berisoff did not have a confidentiality agreement signed with Carbone. Mr. Carbone must have missed the ethics class of his education and training.  

Carbone quickly established a corporation with opposing business partners and named the company Korite. Carbone’s actions led to a dark age for the Ammolite industry as lawsuits ensued and divisions occurred. Without the intervention of a businessman, named Rene Vandervelde, the Ammolite venture may have failed. Vandervelde, possessing the resources, envisioned the opportunity that Ammolite held. He purchased the assets of most of the parties involved in this now valuable gemstone. Today, Korite owns the majority of the mining concessions held for Ammonite; and the ones they don’t own they have business relationships with for purchase of the valuable shells. Korite sells 70% of its product inside of Canada and of that half, 35%, goes to visiting tourists-most often of Asian descent.

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Ammolite is an absolutely gorgeous Canadian-made jewel. Korite has done a good job of manufacturing, marketing, and sales.  The Ammolite future appears bright. In a recent interview, Korite’s top sales team tells us that Ammolite sells very well on home shopping networks around the world. My estimate is that Korite sales are in the arena of $20 MM annually and at this moment the gem really has no upper ceiling to its growth potential.

Like the article I wrote regarding Tiffany’s and Tanzanite, Korite and Ammolite serve to illustrate the potential of new gems introduced to a global gemstone market. Recently, I discovered a valuable gemstone deposit in the jungles of the amazon that mimics the aforementioned companies. I would suggest you consider investing early in this opportunity as we are currently raising equity capital in Canada. We are happy to discuss this opportunity with you in detail, please feel free to contact us.  Did you like this story?  Follow us so you don’t miss out on our latest content!