From reading the wiki, it seems that iron ores can be found in layers consisting of chalk. I've now mined out almost two complete layers of chalk, and found nothing but gems. Is it possible that my map doesn't have any iron ore, or am I misunderstanding how to find the ore?
The first couple of layers consist of chalk, so that's where I'm digging. Unfortunately the strip mining makes the fortress quite ugly, as that's where I've got my workshops. The lower levels have mainly phyllite and schist.