When a person buys a meteorite it is unlike purchasing anything else on this planet because they are space rocks from outer space and not man-made. This helpful guide gives useful information and tips to help smooth the purchase of your first meteorite.
First, there are many different categories of meteorites. One has to decide if they are going to buy an iron meteorite, stone meteorite, or perhaps a pallasite from the stony iron family of meteorites. This meteorite guide will help you not only learn more, but will help you choose which of the many types of meteorites to acquire.
Iron Meteorites such as Canyon Diablo, and Henbury have great stories and have been known by mankind for a long time. It happens that both of these are from crater forming events. Both often have great shapes and are pretty easy to maintain for display. Canyon Diablo Meteorites are often the first meteorite that a new collector will get. They come from the famous Meteor Crater in central Arizona. It is not permitted to gather meteorites from around the crater today. But, thousands of meteorites were collected during the last century and are still being sold and resold today. Henbury Meteorites come from a crater in Australia. They are a wonderful meteorite also nicely sculptured by the tearing forces of the impact.
Iron meteorites are cleaned to varying levels. There is really no right or wrong to the amount of cleaning. It is more important that it has been done in a way that is good for the specimen. We never use chemicals to remove rust preferring to remove any loose rust or scale with some elbow grease and a wire brush. The coating on iron meteorites has developed over thousands of years in some cases and provides their insides with some protection from further corrosion in the Earth’s wet atmosphere. Some are lightly cleaned so that the natural patina remains. A very nice rare type of iron has been recently discovered and it has been cleaned by us so that it retains it natural appearance is Agoudal.
Agoudal Iron Meteorites are a type called a hexahedrite. This means that they have a little less nickel than some of the other irons and are made of just one of the two main nickel-iron mineral that being kamacite. Now is a great time to obtain Agoudal while the supply is good and the discovery still recent. Most meteorites quickly get harder to obtain as the recovery of new specimens declines. Other irons are cleaned a little more sometimes, and a few require little or no cleaning. One of the latter type is the Sikhote Alin Meteorite that fell in a tremendous event in 1947 over Siberia. These irons come
in all sizes and shapes and in two main types. The first type of Sikhote Alin is the flight marked regmaglyph individuals. These are wonderful thumbprinted meteorites that look exactly how one might think all meteorites should look. The second type is the Sikhote Alin shrapnel variety. These are pieces of meteoric metal that have been torn apart by the forces of large masses of the asteroid hitting the ground and exploding. Both of these types are available from us and are great additions to any meteorite collection.
Shape was discussed a little bit earlier but there are several areas of external form to think about when buying meteorites.
Here is where personal taste and artistic appeal will be the major concerns. If the specimen is to be displayed then having thumbprints which are called regmaglyphs may be important. An oriented shape with strong flight marks may be what is wanted. These features add considerably to the cost of some meteorites. With iron meteorites sometimes a very spiny appearance with sharp edges is what buyers want. In other cases it may be the pitting and overall size. Often is is just what the buyer happens to see and appreciate in the specimen. There really is no right or wrong as long as the specimen has been well prepared and maintained.
Stone meteorites are sold as complete stones, as slices and end cuts, and also as broken fragments. Sometimes the buyer may have a choice about the type of specimen for the particular meteorite they will purchase. As time goes on a buyer’s collection will grow and they will often purchase a whole stone as well as a slice so they have both a view of the inside and of the whole stone. Often a broken or cut stone may serve both purposes especially if it’s surface is polished. The Chelyabinsk Russian Meteorite that so dramatically fell over Russia on February 15, 2013 is a great example of a meteorite that is perfect for getting in several different forms. At times it is available for sale as slices, impact melt, fragments and whole individuals.
Sometimes collectors need just a representative piece to fill a slot in their collection. In this case a small slice or fragment is all that is required. A good online catalog will usually have the meteorites organized by family and type with a photograph of the specimen you are buying. Our catalog for instance has a large selection of meteorites of all the groups. Good choices for the beginning collector might be Al Haggounia 001 a EL3 type. It has been on Earth long enough to be referred to as a paleo meteorite. E chondrites are one of the less common chondrite groups. The E stands for enstatite the main mineral found in them. Another nice choice for one of the first meteorites in any collection is NWA 869. This is a fascinating stone that is made of bits of several different classifications of meteorites which have reformed into a new mass before falling to
Earth. Classified as a type L3.8-6 it will often have very crisp pristine chondrules in places along with areas very different where the chondrules are less distinct. It may be one of the most interesting meteorites to come along in many years.
Besides the large group of Chondrites that have the round structures called chondrules are the Achondrites which do not have chondrules. These have been heated more and have often formed by different processes than the Chondrites. There are many
subgroups of Achondrites also. Two very nice ones for any collector to acquire are Tatahouine a diogenite which was a witnessed fall and is a fascinating meteorite. The other is a very rare meteorite D’Orbigny which is an angrite. There are only 22 angrites known out of tens of thousands of meteorites that have been classified. D’Orbigny with its gas bubbles and great crystalline structure is one of the nicest of the small group of angrites.
Some collectors purchase only Falls; meteorite events which have been witnessed entering the atmosphere and have pieces found quickly thereafter. Sometimes pieces may continue to be found for years. Getting pieces of falls is tricky in itself. Usually,
no one knows how many stones will be found with a fall. If you buy too early after the event, before the area of the fall has been fully explored you will for sure get a specimen. But, you may pay more than if you waited until the hundreds of additional stones have been collected and the price has fallen. You might also have had a better choice of stones to choose from by waiting. On the other hand there have been times when just a handful of stones were found and the only ones to obtain pieces were the persons who bought fast and had the budget to pay the high price. Meteorite collecting can get exciting at the time of Falls. Gao-Guenie is a wonderful meteorite which fell in 1960 and has continued to be found since. They are often
nicely shaped some are oriented and they make a great type H5 collection piece. Another great meteorite fall was that of the Allende meteorite. It is a member of the Carbonaceous Chondrites which as a group are the most scientifically important meteorites. Carbonaceous Chondrites are some of the most primitive of the stones. They often contain material that came from beyond our solar system and is older than our solar system. Allende is a great meteorite of the CV3 type which will enhance any collection. It is available as whole and broken individuals and as slices and pieces with polished windows depending on the collectors taste.
Another Carbonaceous Chondrite that is quite different from Allende is North West Africa 5515. NWA 5515 is a type CK4, It too is a very interesting meteorite. Both of these can be found in our catalog.
Some meteorites are beautifully shaped and are displayed as natural art. Others are jokingly referred to as space potatoes. These latter ones have little in the way of form and virtually not external appeal at all. These will often be cut into slices and end pieces.
Though they were just blobs from space uncut, they may be wonders of beauty and opportunities for knowledge inside. The adage don’t judge a book by its cover is commonly applied to meteorites. There is an opportunity for a bargain sometimes by taking the shapeless plain looking meteorite. One of the nicest meteorites to be classified recently is NWA 8384. It had little going for it on the outside, but when we saw it cut we knew it was very special. It is a type LL3 and loaded with chondrules.
We have slices of this beautiful meteorite for sale. Type LL3 meteorites are among the rarest of the ordinary Chondrites. Pieces of some types of meteorites can be hard to obtain. Historic meteorites that fell long ago or meteorites with a rich story of human contact may not appear for sale often. A missed opportunity on buying some historical meteorites can be quite disappointing. Fortunately, that is not always the case.
Many stone meteorites will show more internal detail and structure when not highly polished. Others which do not have much internally to show can be polished to make them nicer looking for display. Slices should not be wedged shaped, meaning the thickness should be uniform across the slice. This is especially important if microscopic examination is one of the collector’s interests. Wedged slices require constant focusing and refocusing as the thickness changes. This is very annoying and makes microscopic photography over a wide field difficult. The great majority of the stone meteorites we sell are prepared by our highly skilled lapidary experts who have decades of experience in preparing meteorites. We offer some very beautiful stones of many types, but to some collectors none are more appealing then the next group to be discussed.
Stony Iron Meteorites
Pallasites and mesosiderites are the main members of the stony-iron family of meteorites. Pallasites are rare meteorites with about a 50:50 mixture of olivine crystals and nickel iron metal. Scientists continue their study to develope models which can explain the formation of pallasites. Pallasites are often sold as slices to show the transparency of the olivine crystals and look quite amazing with back lighting.
The Fukang pallasite was found in 2000 as a single mass of just over one ton and has nice clear crystals which are breathtaking when nicely prepared. We are proud to offer some very beautiful slices of Fukang for sale.
It was less common in the past to see pallasites and mesosiderites that have been polished and etched. But, today that is often the case. One of the pallasites that displays a nice pattern when polished and etched is Pallasovka which was found in 1990 as a single mass of 198 Kg. We have a nice selection of the Pallasovka pallasite with olivine crystals that are quite transparent with a golden yellow color. Pallasites are often the most beautiful specimens in a buyers collection. Another interesting fact is that the Olivine in pallasites is Peridot, a gemstone which has been faceted into gemstones and used in jewelry.
No discussion of buying meteorites would be complete without some words devoted to the most exotic types of meteorites. Martian and Lunar meteorites are the rarest of the stones. Yet over the last few decades many meteorites from Mars and the Moon have been identified. The process is complicated and precise but the place of origin is well established when the research is done. Buying from a well known and trustworthy dealer is always important but especially so with the planetary meteorites.
Our Moon and Mars Box meteorites are usually the least expensive way to acquire a meteorite specimen from the planets.
As you have seen there is a great variety and selection of meteorites to purchase and we have only scratched the surface. It is all about the personal tastes of the collector and the preparation by the lapidary and the dealer. Meteorite collecting is an exciting hobby with a vast opportunity for acquiring knowledge. Just a little care and judgement will make sure that you get space rocks that can be enjoyed for a lifetime and passed on for future generations to also appreciate.
Author: James Tobin