Meteorite and impactite jewellery

It is undeniable that most meteorites in their raw state are not the most attractive of objects!
However, when cut and polished or even faceted, some types can be made into attractive and fascinating items of jewellery. For a variety of reasons,

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rock and gem magazine issue 62 winter 2013

not all space rocks are suitable for this purpose: I thought it might be helpful to jewellery makers (which group includes my wife, Linda: http://www.space-jewellery.co.uk) to produce a brief guide to what material is a) available and b) suitable.

Impactites


There are several different glassy impactites which are highly suitable for jewellery-making.
Some are fairly abundant and inexpensive, others are scarce and more valuable: virtually all can be polished and faceted and made into beautiful items of jewellery.

Tektites

The term 'tektite' is derived from the greek word for 'molten' and is generally used to encompass all glassy impactites. Within the rock & gem trade, however, the term is reserved for the oriented, dark objects recovered from the Indo-Chinese- Australasian and American strewn fields. Let's consider these first!

Indochinites / Australites

By far the most abundant and easily-obtainable tektites are the black glasses originating in China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. (Note: there is no such thing as 'Tibetan Tektite': this is just clever rebranding to enhance the appeal - and value - of ordinary small Indochinites) Australites and Philippinites (Rizalites) are much scarcer and more expensive, but have the same chemical and physical properties as Indochinites: there is no advantage (other than rarity value) in their use in jewellery and I have never personally come across them other than as scientific specimens.

Interestingly, indochinites were first studied by Charles Dawin during his nineteenth century 'Beagle' voyage.
Over a century after their discovery, their origin is still contentious: once considered volcanic, then extraterrestrial and, more recently, terrestrial, there are still good reasons to postulate an origin on the Moon (See a previous article!) When polished / faceted they have a lustrous black surface and are frequently used to make earrings, necklaces & bracelets. As with the whole group, it should be remembered that they are basically glass, and are easily 'bruised'.

Columbianites

Genuine North American Tektites are quite rare: there are two named types - Bediasites (which are predominantly found in Texas) and Georgiaites (From Georgia!) Both types are thought by some authorities to have been created by the impact responsible for the submarine Chesapeake Bay Crater that was formed around 35 million years ago. They are usually brownish-grey, but may be lilac-coloured when viewed against a strong light.
Although rare and expensive, they are sometimes offered as jewellery items, mainly because of their scarcity….

Texas Bediasites

Impact Glasses

These are generally irregular in shape and found in a variety of colours. These are always associated with a known impact crater and often display included fragments of the local rock. The majority are opaque and unsuitable for polishing, but a few make spectacular jewellery.

Moldavite


The most sought-after of all the impact glasses is Moldavite. This beautiful green mineral was probably formed by the impact of the large meteorite or cometary nucleus that formed the Nordlinger Ries Crater in Germany between 15 and 20 million years ago.
Moldavite (which takes its name from the town of Moldauthein in the Czech Republic) has been found in western Moravia, southern & northwestern Bohemia, Lusatia (Germany), and Waldviertel (Austria). There are two major 'grades': the beautiful 'flowerbursts' and 'hedgehogs' are rare and valuable and less often used in jewellery, while the basic grade is frequently facetted or polished. It is generally wrapped or inset into a precious-metal mount.

Libyan / Egyptian Desert Glass


Known and used since antiquity (both for jewellery and tool-making) this attractive glass varies in colour from white to gold, through smoky grey to green. It derives from the cometary impact that created the Gilf el Kebir, a poorly-defined crater on the Libya - Egypt border. Needless to say, the upheavals associated with the 'Arab Spring' have made collection somewhat problematical, forcing up the price of the genuine article. It is widely known that several items of regalia in Tutankhamun's funerary treasure include Desert Glass and this undoubtedly enhances its appeal within the mind, body and spirit trade.

Other impact glasses which are occasionally available include Aouelloul Glass from Mauretania, Irghizite and Zhamanshinite from Kazakhstan and Darwinite from Australia: all of these are suitable for jewellery, if only for their intriguing origins!

Unless the lunar origin of Tektites can be conclusively proven (which may require a return to the Moon!) none of these minerals are extraterrestrial. In my next article I shall consider the use of genuine meteorites in jewellery making.


 

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