Space Bling

If you are a constant reader of this journal, you might have noticed that I am highly interested in unobtanium — various exotic materials. This post will depart from my usual blabbering about titanium.

Many years ago I got my first glimpse of aventurine – a form of quartz with suspended flecks of other minerals. The name itself sounded absolutely exotic and appropriate for a mineral that looks like a piece of solidified star field. It comes from Italian “a ventura” – meaning “by chance”. It refers to the fact that Italian glass makers learned to make glass that looks like aventurine by chance through mixing in flecks of copper. But in Russian “avantura” is a word that does not carry the same meaning. It can be best translated as “a risky and/or shady venture”.

Aventurine is usually green or orange, and I am not sure if the black version that I like so much is really aventurine at all. Recently I came by an ad in Russian Forbes magazine for a very expensive watch made by Bernhard Lederer Universe called blu-Planet. It has an internal dial made of aventurine which the ad claimed was of meteoritic origin.

My research shows that aventurine has a terrestrial origin, but while looking at meteorites I found a most interesting fact. It turns out that many metallic meteorites when polished and dipped in a dilute acid bath, show the most amazing patterns reminiscent of microchip’s silicone surface. These are called “Widmanstatten patterns” (after the name of a scientist who discovered them) and are a result of nickel and iron cores of asteroids slowly crystallizing for millions of years in the void of space.

Pieces of space rock are desirable. Apollo space program brought back a limited amount of Moon specimens and it was waaay expensive. Then it turned out that some meteorites found on Earth have the same chemical composition. So basically, you can get pieces of asteroids, the Moon, Mars and hell knows what else without leaving the planet. In fact you don’t need to leave your chair — eBay has loads and loads of meteorites for sale.

Space stones do not come cheap — they sell for about a dollar per gram, which is significantly more than the price of silver, and might go for much more than the price of gold. No wonder that a former truck driver from whose website I took these amazing photos of meteorites has been able to support his family through meteorite hunting. Overall, it looks to me like the cost effectiveness of a truck driver with an ATV and a metal detector is pretty good compared to the cost of our space program.