What is Argillite?

Argillite rock is a unique black slate found only on the islands of Haida Gwaii. Historically and today, the Haida people own the exclusive rights to use argillite. Skilled Haida Artists continue to create highly collectible argillite jewelry and Haida argillite carvings out of this black stone.

From the Crystal Cabin archives. A collection of Argillite carvings by Haida Carvers from Haida Gwaii. 

From the Crystal Cabin archives. A collection of Argillite carvings by Haida Carvers from Haida Gwaii. 

Argillite, also known as the ‘gem of Haida Gwaii’, can be identified by it’s smooth, black exterior. The natural stone is a soft greyish black, and reveals a striking, shiny black finish when worked by carvers. As you wear a piece of argillite jewelry, the natural oils of your skin will enhance the stone’s natural beauty. Often inlaid with abalone, mother of pearl or other semi-precious materials, this black slate has become a featured material in Haida artwork. Argillite is used to make Haida carvings and jewelry, depicting traditional legends and myths.

This argillite piece represents the Haida Bear Mother Story and is carved by Haida Artist, Michael J. Brown. This piece can be purchased on our website. 

This argillite piece represents the Haida Bear Mother Story and is carved by Haida Artist, Michael J. Brown. This piece can be purchased on our website. 

Local argillite has a unique geological composition compared to argillites found in other areas. As Haida Gwaii argillite formed it was exposed to very high temperatures, which helped to solidify and strengthen this clay-like sedimentary material. This high heat resulted in a stone of very fine and highly compacted particles. For this reason, the argillite from Haida Gwaii is perfect for carving layer by layer to expose fine details. In comparison, other argillite from around the world is similar to a brittle shale and has a tendency to split and chip. Argillite from Haida Gwaii is from the geological formation called the Haida Formation. This stone is approximately 80 million years old from the Cretaceous Period. 

This Bear Medallion set in sterling silver is carved by Haida Artist Marcel Russ. This piece can be purchased on our website. 

This Bear Medallion set in sterling silver is carved by Haida Artist Marcel Russ. This piece can be purchased on our website. 

Crystal Cabin offers a local selection of Haida argillite pendants, earrings, beads, and carvings in Tlell, Haida Gwaii or at www.crystalcabingallery.com. For custom requests of argillite carvings and jewelry please contact us and we would be happy to help you find the perfect piece.