History of Turritella Agate

Turritella Agate is both an Agate and a Fossil of ancient freshwater snails. Both Agates and Fossils have many traditions associated with them and were included in lapidaries dating back into ancient times. This specific stone, however, was first documented in the mid-20th century and so has relatively few stories associated with it.

When it was first studied, the fossils were thought to be shells from the saltwater snail family Turritella, hence the name. But further study soon revealed that the shells were actually from a specific species of freshwater snail, Elimia tenera. However, by this point the trade name of “Turritella Agate” was so entrenched in the gem and mineral community that few questioned the moniker. While some purists have argued that it should be called “Elimia Agate,” the name has not caught on with the general public.

Elimia tenera flourished during the Eocene Era (56-39 million years ago), but are now extinct. They were native to a section of the American mountain west, an area which today comprises Wyoming, northern Colorado, and northern Utah. During that period, the area was divided between rough mountains and broad intermountain basins. These basins were dotted with lakes which were home to countless Turritella Snails. So many, in fact, that their empty shells would sink to the bottom of the lakes and form entire layers of sediment! The best examples of Turritella Agate come from the Fort Laclede Bed, in Sweetwater, Wyoming.

Anyone wishing to work with this stone would do well to study the totem medicine significance of the snail. This small invertebrate teaches valuable lessons in patience, inner growth, protection, and self-reliance. Snail medicine also teaches us to slow down and take time to smell (or munch!) on the flowers.