In the first part of this article, I reviewed the numerous glassy impactites that can be transformed into attractive and fascinating items of jewellery. As was mentioned, the majority of these are predominantly terrestrial in origin, although some (such as Desert Glass) may contain traces of the impactor.
In this, the concluding part, I shall consider the jewellery use of actual material from space: meteorites themselves.
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I am occasionally criticized by other scientists for making a living from selling meteorites, their argument being that their scientific value outweighs their intrinsic or commercial value and that they all belong in museums.
My response has always been that the world’s museums have plenty already and have no particular moral claim on meteorites - with the exception of novel or important discoveries.
For example, the NHM in London has a wonderful collection of thousands of large and beautiful meteorites, of which only a handful are on public display or are the subject of current investigation. Where do we draw the line between curation and hoarding? In my (not particularly humble!) opinion, making meteorites more widely available can only be a good thing that may well result in new finds being made in the UK.
Since the majority of meteorites in the raw state are not desperately attractive, it would seem that using them to make jewellery is a great way to encourage non-specialist interest.
Making up just under 5% of all known meteorites, the siderites seem obvious candidates for jewellery making: they are shiny and silvery when polished and most display intriguing Widmanstätten Patterns when etched. Unfortunately, the majority contain impurities (particularly sulphides such as troilite) that can quickly initiate rusting. There are, however, a few that are extremely stable and thus make excellent jewellery. The two most suitable are probably Gibeon, from Namibia, and Muonionalusta from Sweden. Neither are cheap, but both display excellent Widmanstätten Patterns.
Some nickel-irons can be obtained as small, intact meteorites and these can be made into intriguing pendants or earrings: Sikhote Alin, which fell in Russia in 1947, is very popular, since individuals often have a silvery or pewter-like luster and are frequently leaf- shaped:
Other suitable irons include Canyon Diablo (from the Arizona Meteor Crater), Gibeon and individual crystals of the famous Campo del Cielo meteorite from Argentina
At first sight, the majority of stony meteorites are fairly unattractive lumps of rock! However, almost all reveal fascinating and often beautiful structure when sliced and polished. The most abundant of all meteorites are the common chondrites:
these make up over 80% of the 300 or so tones that arrive on Earth each day! These are classified by the amount of nickel-iron they contain and the size and number of the spherical chondrules in their structure. (See a previous article for a fuller explanation!) An L3 chondrite should display large, obvious chondrules and specks of bright nickel-iron, making it an obvious choice for jewellery.
However, spectacular slices like this sample of NWA 5205 can be a little delicate (and expensive!) and would need to be enclosed in a suitable silver ‘tray’. Other types, such as L5 / L6 stones tend to be tougher, and can be cut into suitable shapes and drilled to take a bale: Linda has stars, moons and hearts in her inventory! (http://www.space-jewellery.co.uk/stones.html)
The rarest of all the main types of stony meteorites are the achondrites: these are of planetary origin, reaching the Earth from Mars, the Moon various asteroids and even possibly Mercury. With a 10mm x 10mm slice of lunaite costing around £500, owning an item of jewellery featuring a piece of another planet is beyond many of us! Nevertheless, we have sold several:
the slices need to be protected beneath a rock-crystal lens or similar.
Alternatively, cutting dust from the preparation of achondrite slices is sold in glass vials at a much lower price: of course, the characteristic structure cannot be seen!
The last meteorites that are occasionally used in jewellery are the stunning Pallasites. Even polished slices have a gem-like quality, with gorgeous green / orange / red or lemon shards of olivine (peridot) suspended in a gleaming nickel-iron matrix.
As with all polished iron, there is always the potential for corrosion, and some pallasites (Admire, Brenham, Brahin) are particularly notorious! However, there are others (Jepara, Pallasovka, Seymchan, Esquel etc) that are extremely stable and highly suitable. The only draw-back once again is price: a 20mm x 20mm Jepara pendant and chain might cost around £80, while a similar Imilac or Esquel would be treble that!
In conclusion, I hope you have found that this article has been of interest: should you have any comments or questions, do feel free to contact us!
David & Linda Bryant
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