Of Earth and Sky

It’s one of those subtle stones.

Not too many people notice my piece when I wear it. After all, it’s a quiet grey.

(They’re most likely to ask if it’s a guitar pick, which it is, and if I’m a musician, which I am very much not. I just fell in love with the piece and had to have it to make myself a pendant.)

The grey stone is actually metal, a natural iron-nickel alloy. They’re slices of iron meteorite. Iron meteorites come from asteroids, so while not tied to a distant world like the moon or Mars it does link back in time to the formation of the solar system.

This particular one is known as the Gibeon meteorite. It fell during prehistoric times. The Gibeon was a large meteorite that probably burst high in the atmosphere–fragments were strewn over a large portion of what is now Namibia.

I first saw this meteorite at a craft show, in a gorgeous piece that immediately caught my eye. The artisans were nice enough to let me handle the piece and I developed a crush on the Gibeon meteorite then and there.

The patterns you see on the meteorite are called Widmanstatten lines. They are the result of  the metal cooling over huge periods of time.

How huge?

I’ve read that those patterns are from nickel and iron based minerals cooling at a rate of one degree every million years. Scientists have dated the Gibeon meteorite to around 4 billion years old. For comparison, the oldest known rocks on earth are dated at 3.8 billion years of age. So in holding this I’m holding something older than anything I could hold of earthly origin.

When slices are taken from the meteorite fragments they’re treated with diluted acid to emphasize these marks. Each meteorite has a different material composition and different pattern of Widmanstatten lines, so they’re kind of like fingerprints.

These pendants are sort of my Sagan pieces- he once spoke about us being children equally of the earth and the sky. That’s what kept popping into my head while wrapping gold and metals from deep inside our earth around a piece of metal that fell from the sky.

I had to get my ipod to listen to my Symphony of Science playlist while working on these. “We Are All Connected.” is my personal theme for these pendants.

The gold, the metal it’s bonded to in order to make gold fill, the iron and the nickel of the meteorite were all created in the heart of dying stars going supernova. Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Lawrence Krauss point out the atoms in us were created the same way: We are stardust in the highest exaulted way.” –Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I find it mind blowing (for lack of a more eloquent and awe-inspired word) to think that the iron in our blood, the iron meteorites and the molten iron at the Earth’s core all came from the same source, the debris from explosions that shaped our solar system.

I’ve been told that the amount of nickel alloyed in the iron makes this meteorite more rust resistant than most other iron meteorites. Though with the caveat that I wouldn’t recommend wearing them in the pool/bath/shower or on hot days when you’re likely to get really sweaty… I’ve worn my first (admittedly less attractive) chunk for several years without rust issues and my newer guitar pick one fairly often since I bought it. Just to be on the safe side I store all of my meteorite pieces in small plastic zipper bags with silica packs to absorb humidity.


Filed under Crafts, Gems

2 responses to “Of Earth and Sky

  1. This is an awe-inspiring piece, Miss Magpie and, as always, your well-expressed erudition makes it all the more awesome (This is the use of ‘awesome’ in its proper sense of inducing a feeling of awe. I am an English teacher, after all.) The grey lattice pattern provokes the desire to gaze and explore and to meditate on our origins and our connectedness. That, and I used to have SUCH a crush on Carl Sagan.

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