Geeking out over fossils is one of my favorite pastimes. Excursions to museums are some of the most fascinating experiences for children (and some adults) particular when dinosaur fossils are on exhibition. There is something magical about standing underneath their giant skeletons and seeing the ridiculously enormous size of these extinct creatures that lets the imagination run wild! Even with all of today’s technology (a la Jurassic World), seeing these creatures in the ‘flesh’ is still the most exciting way to comprehend the existence of these remarkable giants. Although for most people, the word fossil is synonymous with dinosaurs, there are much smaller extinct creatures that played a role of greater importance in the evolution of life (if this is the theory your beliefs align with). For the interests of our industries, these fossils are small enough to set into gemstone jewelry and so we can explore their wonder guilt-free as it’s for work purposes.
Let’s go back about 520 million years (260 million years before dinosaurs existed) and contemplate the state of our planet. It’s already 4 billion years old and life is beginning to thrive thanks to “The Cambrian Explosion” that saw a burst of life in the earth’s ancient seas. Trilobites were among the early arthropods (invertebrate animals with an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages) and flourished for 251 million years. With over 20,000 described species, and more unearthed each year, trilobites are the single most diverse class of extinct organisms. Showing their great diversity in size and form, the smallest known trilobites measure under 1mm and the largest almost 70cm. Their fossils are found in the rocks of most continents and are one of the key signature creatures of the Paleozoic Era, the first era to exhibit a proliferation of the complex life-forms that established the foundation of life as it is today. Wow.
The earth has seen five key mass extinctions, the most notable being the 5th at the end of the Triassic period that saw a meteoric impact wipe out 80% of species, the dinosaurs being the most famous casualties. Trilobites, although already decreasing in numbers, were totally extinct during the Permian extinction (252 million years ago), the worst mass extinction of our planet’s history, obliterating 96% of species. From here it was another 10 or so million years before life began to appear once again.
Current day earth and all we have remaining are trilobite fossils, mineral impressions of these wondrous creatures. The only trilobites likely to have fossilized are those that were buried quickly before erosion could take place. A myriad of minerals including silica, iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, sulfur, manganese, chromium and carbon in the form of calcite, agate, quartz and hematite crystalize within the cavities and cells replacing and replicating the flesh and shell left behind. This process takes millions of years and the right balance of heat, pressure and mineral sources are required just the same as for the formation of any crystal. During this period of time there was a great deal of volcanic activity as well as meteorites causing intense heat and changes to the geological environment and would have contributed to their successful fossilization.
Although trilobites were a dominant life form and most were only a few centimeters in size they are still quite hard to source in whole, solid and well-defined specimens appropriate for setting in gemstone jewelry. Bunny Bedi, owner and designer at Made In Earth, has seen the intrigue of fossil jewelry thrive over the last few years.
“We are always on the hunt for something unique and fossils in our gemstone jewelry range certainly excite our customers. They have gained popularity along with meteorite jewelry and have been consistently successful in our collection. The age and the history give each fossil an identity and trilobites have the most fascinating tale to tell.”
Although crystals are also thousands to millions of years old, their age and history doesn’t necessarily trump their beauty for attention. Trilobites offer a peek into our planet’s primordial past and represent life itself – the true miracle of nature. Our Trilobite rings are pendants not only look great on but you get to wear a piece of history in the circle of life which is amazing in itself.