Argillite that the Haida use for argillite carvings and jewelry can be found in a quarry on Slatechuck Mountain near the town of Skidegate, on the east central coast of this amazing and beautiful island archipelago off the west coast of Canada. The land and quarry are owned by the Haida Nation who hold proprietary ownership.
Argillite from the Haida quarry is a hard, fine, black silt, sometimes referred to as "black slate" that is unique to Haida Gwaii and can be found nowhere else in the world. Argillite is a sedimentary rock that started as a clay like material. When it was exposed to very high temperatures 80 million years ago, it strengthened and solidified. This process created a fine stone that is perfect for carving. An argillite carver can create works of art that have very fine details, by working with the layers in the argillite.
The Haida word for argillite is Kwawhlhal. The argillite carvings by the Haida people are of high quality and have been highly prized around the world since Haida carvers first began selling their carvings to sailors from Europe around 1800. Contemporary Haida carvers continue the tradition of creating argillite carvings and sculptures, many of whom are internationally known and recognized for their work.