Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gemstone from Outer Space

By on Saturday, April 19, 2008 2 Comments



Peridot, the gem quality version of the mineral olivine is sometimes known as the Evening Emerald or even the Poor Man's Emerald (see my past post). But it also has another moniker - the gemstone from outer space.

The reason is olivine is found in a type of stony iron meteorite called pallasites. These were named after the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas who first identified a Siberian specimen in 1772. Pallasites are very rare - less than 1% of all meteorites are pallasites - and consist of approximately 50% olivine and peridot crystals and 50% nickel-iron. Only 61 are known to date, the vast majority were not observed falls. That these meteorites survived burning up in the atmosphere as they hurtled down to Earth is also remarkable.

A spectacular find in 2000 was the Fukang (Xinjiang Province, China) meteorite which originally weighed 1003 kg. Some of it has been whittled away to about 420 kg but the main chunk (above left) is now up for auction later this month at Bonhams in New York. It is expected to fetch $2 million. Gizmag.com estimated that at an average price of $40 per gram, a potential buyer could break it apart into smaller pieces for sale and translate the investment to more than $17 million.

A jewelry forum member recently asked what she should do with a piece of meteorite (she didn't say what kind) she had been given. The suggestions she got were to wire wrap it. But she said the piece deserved some sort of framing and I think she is right. The above pallasite pendant from ScienceMall-USA, is made from a piece of a Russian pallasite. As you can see, it is beautifully framed with an intricate gold filigree. You can also buy smaller pieces of the Fukang pallasite from Towercrystals.com from this page before they are all gone. Perhaps irresistible for someone who likes a challenge and likes unusual materials?

Via gizmag
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The Beading Gem's Journal

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2 comments:

  1. I would not recommend meteorites for beading, etc., no matter how nice the idea is. Unless it is only for personal use, at least. This is because all these pallasites and irons will rust even under the best conditions. Put them in contact with the body, shower, swimming - forget it! Anyway I curate meteorites and am quite familiar with them. Meteorites have been frozen in space, once they fall to earth they are subject rusting, and they will rust. The o0livines will pop right out in time. If you coat them, they will rust internally and discoler.

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  2. I agree it's not for the average beader but if the individual is keen then they can take action like serious collectors to deal with the iron/chlorine rust issue. Keeping them really dry as much as possible is one way (use of dessicants etc). Cleaning with tap water is a great no-no because of the chlorine will exacebate rusting. This EarthSci.org page recommends a procedure to remove the chlorine present as iron and nickel chlorides which formed after the meteorite fell to Earth to prevent further rusting. The author also has a way of dealing with the olivine crystals should they pop out. http://earthsci.org/fossils/space/craters/met/met.html
    Do curators keep their meteorite collections under special conditions?

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