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Newbie asks: Which meteorites are obviously not meteorwrongs, by sight?

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#1 mark8888

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 11:32 AM

Hi everyone,

 

It doesn't seem like this forum is very active, but I'll give it a shot!!

 

I'm interested in starting a collection of meteorites; I have none right now.  I'm a skeptic, so first I want to do my best to ensure that what I buy will be an actual meteorite, not a fake. My first step in this is to find a very reputable source, and by reading lots of old threads in this forum and also getting great advice (thanks Kent  :grin: ) , I think I have identified a few.

 

What I'm curious about now is, I'm wondering if there is a type or there are types of meteorites that are easily identifiable as real ones, by sight.  What I mean by this is... well, a lot of meteorites I see being sold, even by very reputable dealers, look very similar to rocks that I've seen on Earth.  To cite but one example, I was just looking at several photos of "Bassikounou meteorites" for sale.  They come from a good dealer and I don't really doubt that they are actual meteorites... but the same photos by a scam artist and I wouldn't be surprised at all if they were ordinary rocks found behind someone's house.  So these are clearly meteorites that aren't necessarily very distinctive from earth rocks on sight.  And I wouldnt think that it's entirely impossible that even a reputable dealer could make a mistake and sell an earth rock as one by mistake, if say it's untested by a scientist.

 

I have also seen some meteorites that look very much like, or perhaps identical to, volcanic rocks from earth.

 

On the other hand, there are ones like these "chondrites" which to my very unprofessional eye look like nothing I've seen before.  Perhaps there are no earth rocks that look anything like them, and thus one can feel extraordinarily confident when purchasing one, especially from a very reputable dealer, as they are essentially impossible to fake.  True?

 

So I am wondering if chondrites that look like these might be a good example of meteorites that look extremely distinctive from any earth rocks, even to a non-expert. And if so, I wonder if there might be other "obviously not from Earth" types like this.  (Maybe pallasites?  I've seen some that look distinctive...?)

 

Anyway, any thoughts would be very welcome.


Edited by mark8888, 15 October 2014 - 12:36 PM.

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#2 mayidunk

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 12:34 PM

This website appears to cover this fairly well, and so might be helpful.  I'm not a collector, nor am I an expert in this, but what I saw seemed to match up with what I know (or, think I know, anyway...).  One quick and dirty test that I am aware of, however, is that most meteorites will attract a magnet due to their high Iron content!

 

Good luck starting your collection! 

 

Edit: Apparently, the creator of this website also sells items pertaining to finding, and collecting meteorites.  Knowing that, please understand that I can not in any way vouch for the safety of using this website to purchase things, nor can I vouch for the quality of the items being sold, nor for the honesty of the people selling those items.  Therefore, should you decide to delve deeper into what they are selling, you're on your own.

 

Good luck!


Edited by mayidunk, 15 October 2014 - 12:41 PM.

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#3 Kent10

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 05:59 PM

I would like to preface this with the following.  I have been collecting for a couple of years and have done lots of reading and have looked at lots of meteorites and pictures of meteorites, but I am certainly no expert and although I feel quite comfortable knowing what a meteorite looks like, I am sure there are ones out there that would fool me.

 

As far as which meteorites are easily identified as meteorites.  Yes, pallasites for sure. 

 

I also think if the sample has a crust on it, then it is a meteorite. 

 

Crust, chondrules, metal in the matrix, shape (thumbprint or Regmaglypts) all tell me if it is a meteorite or not.

 

When I 1st started collecting I posted pictures of those I bought. I remember Mike, a member of this forum, knew almost everything I posted and I wondered how he did that.  But now that I have the experience, I can easily do that for many of the specimens.  They have a certain look to them and once you have seen many of them they are easy to identify.  Still I am sure there are some that do look like earth rocks and that is when it is confusing. 

 

Some recommended to me to read the book "Rocks from Space" by O Richard Norton and that will help a lot too.

 

BTW, some of the meteorites will look a lot nicer when you see them in person because if there is metal in the matrix it will really "sparkle."  I bought my 1st meteorite not expecting it to look great.  I just bought it to have a meteorite but when I received it, I thought it was beautiful and now I own hundreds.

 

The link Bob gave above is great and other searches for How to identify a meteorite will help too.  But just keep buying from reliable sources and in no time you will easily recognize a meteorite. 

 

I have seen some on ebay advertised as meteorites that don't look like meteorites and I'll say to myself, Yea right!  And then later I will see others discussing the fakes on other forums.  So be careful there are fakes out there but I think in general most of the ones sold as meteorites are meteorites.

 

Kent


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#4 Kent10

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 06:06 PM

I am not sure who wrote this but as far as crust goes, I guess it can't be more than 2mm thick or it is not a meteorite.

 

http://www.wikihow.c...-Be-a-Meteorite



#5 mark8888

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 07:24 PM

Thank you guys.  The links and info you've both provided about identifying meteorites are invaluable.  Good weekend reading on the way!

 

Thanks also for this: "As far as which meteorites are easily identified as meteorites.  Yes, pallasites for sure."

 

Very interesting. I still find myself very interested in finding out about which meteorites are very obviously meteorites at a glance, very VERY distinguishable from any earth rocks.  The most distinguishable ones.  Pallasites... many slices seem to look very similar to this.  OK, so it's fair to say that no earth rock can look just like that, or even pretty similar?

 

Any others?



#6 Glassthrower

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 07:47 PM

Hi Mark,

 

Generally speaking, no established meteorite dealer would risk their reputation or business for a sale.  Why try to pass off a fake for $20 or $100 (or even $1000) when the consequences are a destroyed reputation and the loss of tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) in future sales?  The meteorite world is pretty small and word gets around fast.  There is a good deal of self-policing going on and the members of the community are not forgiving when it comes to scams.  Even a well-intentioned mistake can result in lost business and trust.  So, the majority of dealers are very careful and only buy from long-established sources that have been thoroughly vetted.   As a dealer myself, I am very picky about where I source my specimens from. 

 

Having said that, be careful on eBay - eBay is rife with fakes and misrepresented specimens.  There are also a lot of legit specimens, but you have to tread carefully and research the seller before buying.  When in doubt, post a question here for a honest and candid answer.

 

All of the dealers mentioned in links above in this thread are legit.

 

Yes, many meteorites look like Earth rocks because they are made of the same elements and minerals found here on Earth, just in different mixtures and forms. 

 

Meteorites that are instantly ID'ed as meteorites : most pallasites (Shirokovsky not-withstanding), Campo del Cielo, and Sikhote Alin all have distinctive features that are readily recognizable.  The latter two are very common on the market.

 

The bigger worry is misrepresented meteorites.  It is easy to take a fresh-appearing stone like a Chergach and pass it off as a more valuable fall, like Ash Creek or Buzzard Coulee.  This has happened before.  The only way to avoid this is to know your dealer. 

 

Beware - it is impossible to buy just a few meteorites!  It is an addictive hobby.  :)

 

Best regards,

 

MikeG


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#7 peter scherff

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 08:13 PM

Hi Mark8888,
Welcome to Cloudy Nights & the Space Rock forum. To paraphrase Euclid, there is no royal road to meteoritics. But you are on the right path. I don’t know where you live but hopefully you can find a good public meteorite collection near you. The best way to recognize a meteorite is to look at as many different meteorites as possible.
Unfortuantly there are always exceptions to the basic meteorite Identification rules. For example there is the story of the fake palasite, Shirokovsky: http://www.spiritroc...hirokovsky.html This meteorwrong was so good that it was accepted as a real meteorite by the Meteoritical Society. As for meteorites not having crust thicker than 2mm, I have seen some Peekskill meteorites where the crust was thicker than 2mm. I have even been told of a terrestrial iron that has a widmanstatten pattern when etched. As for a nice type 3 chondrite, unfortunately conglomerates can be mistaken for them.
There are times when you are certain that the rock you are looking at is a meteorite but you don’t know for certain which meteorite it is. I have seen meteorites with the labels switched at a major museum. I have also seen dealers sell meteorite X as the much more expensive meteorite Y.
The best advice anyone can give you is to educate yourself and to deal only with reputable dealers.
Thanks,
Peter


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#8 mark8888

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Posted 16 October 2014 - 10:48 AM

Hi,

 

Incredibly informative posts guys.  Thanks very much.  I'm surprised that this forum doesn't get much more traffic, very interesting posts here!!

 

So I read about Shirokovsky.  Interesting, good story... and yes it makes clear that the answer to my question is, there are no meteorites that you can be 100% sure aren't meteorwrongs by sight alone. You can get close to sure with some types of specimens, but even those need verification.  Got it.

 

So it leaves an important question:  which are the absolute top tier of vendors selling meteorites?  Where you're as sure can be that what you're buying is a meteorite?

 

From what I can tell, Galactic Stone and Ironworks is excellent  :grin: .  I'll be carefully checking out this site.  The categories look very nice to navigate.

 

Also, from my "research" checking different vendors, I feel very comfortable with Big Kahuna Meteorites.  (sound like a good choice?)   In fact I ordered the first one of my life from them yesterday from an ebay auction.   :grin:

 

Any other recommendations?  Ones where you can choose any space rock from their entire site or ebay site and with absolute confidence feel that you're getting an accurately evaluated and tested (should I say "classified"?) meteorite?  I've found a few possibilities from browsing different threads here, and also asked others about it (thanks Kent), but there's nothing for comfort level like seeing the same name pop up again and again from different folks.  Or maybe hearing a new one. ?  Which site or sites have absolutely the most stringent verification?


Edited by mark8888, 16 October 2014 - 06:57 PM.


#9 Kent10

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Posted 16 October 2014 - 12:59 PM

Here is a list of dealers.  Probably a little old.  And it lists many, not necessarily "top tier" but my guess is they are all reliable.

 

http://www.meteorite...rg/dealers.html


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#10 Glassthrower

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Posted 16 October 2014 - 04:54 PM

Hi Mark,

 

Big Kahuna meteorites is Gary Fujihara based out of Hawaii.  He is a great guy and 100% trustworthy, so feel confident in his specimens.  Some of my own material comes from Gary, including the Dar el Kahal specimens I have.

 

I deal mostly with micromounts, but have a shipment of larger pieces sitting in my PO box right now waiting for me to get them and put them on the website.  They should be online by tonight or tomorrow.

 

Let's see,..... Eric Twelker at http://MeteoriteMarket.com is one of the top guys in the dealer community.  Great specimens and good prices.  He is also very nice to work with.  His website is old-school, so you have to buy via email with him.

 

John Schooler is another top-notch guy - he specializes in witnessed falls mostly, but he has a little bit of everything.  ( http://www.schoolersinc.com )

 

Blaine Reed is also top-notch, but he has no website and sells via an email mailing list.  Contact me via PM and I will give you his email address - I don't think he would want it posted publicly where spammers can harvest it.

 

Rob Wesel, Mike Bandli, and John Sinclair are also good to work with.

 

For tektites, Norm Lehrman is the go-to guy.

 

In Europe. Eric Haiderer and Thomas Stalder are very good.  Thomas has a website and also sells on eBay, but I forget his eBay handle.

 

You can find their website addresses on Russ Finney's website - http://www.meteorite...rg/dealers.html

 

Since I am a vendor, I am prohibited from "bad mouthing" other dealers, so I cannot publicly say which disgraced dealers you should avoid, but if you contact me in private I can tell you which ones to avoid like the plague - "fallen" dealers who are persona-non-grata in the meteorite community for being scammers (some of them still operate on eBay).

 

Best regards,

 

MikeG


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#11 lee14

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Posted 16 October 2014 - 05:18 PM

Keeping in mind Mike's caveat about ebay, it can be a good place to shop, and the prices frequently beat many retail level dealers. It's not hard to avoid problems if you follow just a few guidelines. First, know what you are buying. Look at pics of examples of a specimen from other sources if you're unfamiliar with it. Second, buy from a reputable seller, someone who is selling primarily meteorites or mineral specimens, and one with 100% feedback, or darn close to it. Don't be afraid to ask questions of the seller. And, ebay will guarantee you are getting what is described. If it's not, your money will be returned by the seller or ebay in short order. The same rules apply to foreign sellers, but I would rule out anything from China in any case, there is just too much suspect material, and it is certainly one source that is "rife with fakes and misrepresentations"

 

 

Lee



#12 Glassthrower

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Posted 16 October 2014 - 07:08 PM

I agree with Lee about China.  There are a few reputable dealers in the Far East, but too much fake material originates there and it gives me serious reservations about it.

 

eBay's rules are very anti-seller and it is easy for a seller to get a negative feedback for trivial things now.  An odd negative or two in an otherwise long feedback history of positives should not deter you - it likely means the seller had an encounter with an impossible-to-please buyer.  eBay has groomed it's buyers to be spoiled with unrealistic expectations.

 

But, I still buy specimens on eBay occasionally, which reminds me - John Humphries (azmeteorites) is one of the best sellers on eBay.  Super-nice guy, great deals, and super service.  He specializes mostly in micromounts, but also has larger pieces available.  He does not have a website outside eBay and sells only on eBay.  He and I have a good working relationship although we both specialize in the same thing and cater to the same demographic : he is the go-to guy for micros on eBay, and I have become one of the go-to guys for micros off eBay.  I get most of my Canyon Diablo material from him.   Super guy.

 

Bob Cucchiara is also very good on eBay (meteoritemadness) - he specializes in large Campos but also has a lot of other stuff.

 

Best regards,

 

MikeG


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#13 mark8888

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 11:10 AM

Hi all,

 

So, since the last post, I received a wonderful meteorite, and I'm definitely interested in learning more and expanding the collection.  Thank you again for the links posted thus far, they have been very helpful.

 

As I browse various sites, I find myself wondering about "classification".  Some ads talk about an item being classified, and they name the person who did it and have lots of details.  Some say classified as ___ and it just lists the type of meteorite.  So, I'm trying to figure out what's classified, and what isn't. Some are like this  ... is it officially classified?  How about this one?  What does it mean to be classified... can any professor do it?  Or does it need to be registered... should I be looking for a specific indicator?

 

How about this?  It has a ton of official information, so I'd have to say... yes?

 

I also wonder if anyone uses a magnifier with a light to view meteorites?  I'd assume so... any recommendations? 


Edited by mark8888, 27 October 2014 - 11:22 AM.


#14 peter scherff

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:46 PM

Hi,

 

My go to source for meteorite classification is the Meteoritical Bulletin Database: http://www.lpi.usra....eor/metbull.php  You can look up all the officially classified meteorites there. So people "self pair" meteorites. There some self pairings that are obviously correct. For example my wife and I have found small chondrites in the Holbrook strewn field. We feel confident in calling them Holbrook meteorites. I have seen some sellers say that they have a rock that looks like, for example NWA 7325. They purchased it from the same person who sold NWA 7325. Therefore their rock is NWA 7325. You must ask questions so as not to be fooled by these self pairings.

 

Thanks,

 

Peter   


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#15 Glassthrower

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 03:55 PM

Hi Mark,

 

Since meteorites is an unregulated market, it is largely self-policed.  However, laws that already exist can often apply to meteorite trading.  For example, fraud and mail-fraud are illegal.  If a seller claims a meteorite is classified, and it is not, they are committing fraud.  If the amount of the sale is over a certain amount, the fraud becomes a felony.  Sending a bogus specimen through the mail exposes the seller to mail fraud charges, which are considerably more serious.  If the seller accepts a USPS money order for a fraudulent specimen, then the charges really start piling on.  However, fraud cases brought against meteorite sellers are quite rare and scammers are notoriously dismissive of consequences.

 

This leaves the market to police itself.  As I said before, the meteorite market is relatively small, compared to other collectibles like coins.   Word gets around fast and there are unofficial "black lists" of disgraced dealers who will be avoided by knowledgeable collectors and legitimate dealers/wholesalers.  Nobody wants to be associated with a scammer, because even an indirect association can be damaging to one's reputation and business.

 

One of the unspoken rules of meteorite dealing is : never misrepresent a specimen.  If a "legit" dealer says the specimen is classified, then it has been classified.  What does this really mean?  It can mean a few different things, depending on the situtation.  Let me give an example based on my own experience :

 

The Sulagiri you asked about that is on my website.  I purchased it from Matt Morgan of Mile High Meteorites.  Matt Morgan has a squeaky-clean reputation, does exchanges with reputable institutions, is on a first-name basis with several reputable meteorite scientists, and has a long history of cultivating reliable connections with meteorite hunters and wholesalers abroad.  He purchased a large quantity of Sulagiri, which he then sliced up for resale.  The cutting process created a lot of small crumbs, slivers, and specks.  He packaged up those crumbs into small lots and I purchased one.  I now resell those crumbs as micromounts.

 

Now, the next logical question becomes - how do I *know* these crumbs are really Sulagiri?  And further, how do I know that Matt Morgan *knows* these are Sulagiri?  Who was his source?  How trustworthy is his source?  It is a can of worms that requires detective work. 

 

First, I have owned (over a period of several years), no less than 3 different batches of Sulagiri material.  One batch consisted of large fresh fragments that I cut up into slices for another dealer who had purchased the lot.  These batches of material came from different sources, but they all had one thing in common - the material from each batch was identical the material in the other batches from other sources.  This material was also identical to photos of material in established collections in institutions and universities.  I have also studied this material in thin-section form, in hand macroscopically, and under the microscope - not to authenticate the material per-se, but to satisfy my own curiosities.  I am confident the material is Sulagiri. 

 

Now, back to the source of my current batch, Matt Morgan.  I never asked him where he acquired the material from.  This is always a touchy question with dealers, because many dealers do not want to reveal their sources for reasons of competition.  Some dealers are happy to tell you, if you ask.  Some dealers are reluctant to tell.  I never asked Matt because I trust him completely.  That trust is not given lightly and I have known Matt for years and his reputation is spotless.  If for a moment I thought that I could not trust Matt or his source, I would have never bought the material in the first place. 

 

An uneasy truth in the meteorite world is that most material is not individually tested before it is resold.  The majority of material is identified by eye and in hand or in photos.  Here is a common scenario :

 

1) an established dealer is contacted by one of his sources in Morocco.  This source is someone they have bought many batches of material from previously and there is an established relationship.  The source says, "I have 2 kilograms of NWA 869 for .15 cents a gram, are you interested?"

 

2) the dealer asks for specifics - photos, weights, and find circumstances.  Where did the wholesaler acquire the material from?  Several photos are sent along with numbers.

 

3) If the dealer likes what he sees in the photos, haggling will take place and a price is agreed upon.

 

4) the dealer sends money via Western Union to the seller in Morocco.

 

5) the seller boxes up the meteorites and mails them to the buyer via FedEx.

 

6) The dealer receives the meteorites.  He/she unpacks them, inspects them visually and determines whether or not they are indeed NWA 869, based on previous experiences with the same material.  Some meteorites like NWA 869 have a distinctive appearance, so that determination is easier to make with some meteorites. 

 

7) if the dealer is satisfied with the material, he weighs the pieces, photographs them, and then offers them for resale.

 

Very rarely does the dealer send a sample of each batch of material to a lab for testing.  Very rarely.

 

For unclassified material or new meteorites, this process is different.  A legit dealer will cut off a sample from a representative specimen and send that specimen to a reputable lab recognized by the Meteoritical Society for testing.  While awaiting the results, the dealer holds the material in reserve because it becomes more valuable and marketable once the testing it completed.  Once the tests come back, the sample is submitted for approval by the Nomenclature Committee (NonCom) of the Meteoritical Society.  Final approval and publishing in the Bulletin can take months or years.   Once the material is approved by NonCom, it is assigned a formal name or catalog number.  At this point, the material is "classified" and can be sold as such.

 

A unique or new meteorite is relatively easy to do detective work on.  For example.  NWA 6928 is a relatively-unique and anomalous diogenite.  I picked it off the top of my head.  It is a relatively small find of only 223g before classification.  The entry in the Bulletin lists the owner of the main mass as Gary Fujihara.  Gary is easy to reach via email and will be happy to answer questions about any potential NWA 6928 specimen - he can tell you who bought a given piece and he can examine photos to tell you whether a given specimen is indeed NWA 6928.  Any other similar material from another source other than Gary is likely to be sourced from Gary originally, or it is not NWA 6928.  Any mystery involving a meteorite like that is pretty easy to solve.

 

With something like NWA 869, the situtation is trickier because there is a likelihood that no actual lab-testing was done on the material being offered.  It was "self paired", to use the parlance of the field.

 

And then there are legalities - NWA 869 comes from Algeria.  Algeria forbids the export of meteorites.  Meteorites from Algeria were not exported legally.  If you buy an NWA 869 meteorite, the Algerian Police are not going to show up at your house with an Interpol arrest warrant.  But, that does not change the fact that NWA 869 (or any Algerian meteorite) is a "grey area" meteorite. 

 

Collecting meteorites is complicated and it involves the laws/regulations of dozens of sovereign nations on multiple continents.  Many of those nations do not have established laws regarding meteorites.  Some of those nations with laws in place do not enforce them, like Algeria.  Some of those nations do enforce the laws, like Argentina and Australia. 

 

I know this is a lengthy and ultimately-unhelpful reply.  But I wanted to touch on how complex and layered the meteorite collecting world is.  It is a deep rabbit-hole and it takes time to understand the players involved.  The best and safest route to take is to do your homework on your sources, find a reliable source and stick with that source(s).  I still buy a lot of my material from the same sources that started me out many years ago.  I could probably find cheaper and more profitable deals if I lowered my standards for my sources, but then I would not trust my own material.  If I would not collect a given piece, then I would never sell it to another collector.  To maintain the integrity of my collection, I am very picky.  Some dealers are not so picky.  It's fairly easy to identify which dealers to avoid, because their names are all over the Google Search results.  And, people like the collectors in this forum and myself will be very candid when it comes to helping new collectors.  Besides being my personal hobby and obsession, this is also a business for me and helping to educate collectors is good for business and the hobby.  Whenever a newbie gets burned, it scares them away - like a cheap department-store junk scope can scare someone away from visual astronomy. 

 

Best regards,

 

MikeG


Edited by Glassthrower, 27 October 2014 - 03:56 PM.

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#16 mark8888

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Posted 28 October 2014 - 10:18 AM

Hi,

 

WOW!!  Thank you for your extraordinarily helpful and interesting post.  It's exactly what I was hoping to learn.  Every newbie should learn it... I wonder if I can nominate it to be some kinda sticky? Really really essential information for someone just starting out.  I think it would even be fascinating to people who have no particular interest in meteorites.  

 

So if I'm understanding everything in the post correctly... let's say I'm looking at an ad for a meteorite for sale.  What tells me what meteorite it is - or really, what main mass/fall it came from -  is seeing something in the description like "Meteorite NWA 5549".  That tells me that the meteorite is classified as NWA 5549, officially.  I can then look the name up here to get information about what it is, if it's not in the ad.

 

If the ad has all kinds of info about which scientist tested it and its chemical composition and who found it, and maybe even that this particular sample was tested, etc., great.  As long as it's a trusted seller, I can be extremely confident that it ain't no meteorwrong.  

 

If the ad only says "Meteorite NWA 5549" (and this is just an example, I know nothing about this particular meteorite), and nothing else, then I am essentially relying on that seller's confidence that his sources are absolutely trustworthy.  It's possible that the seller doesn't know who exactly tested the sample, or whose hands it has passed through.  But the seller trusts his source, and also has used his observational skills and experience (but not necessarily any sort of scientific testing) to examine the sample and determine that yes, it is what it's supposed to be.  And of course I as a buyer can inquire to see if more information is available.

 

If a meteorite, or the main mass it was broken off from, has never specifically been tested scientifically, at any point - it must be called "unclassified".  A dealer cannot look at a sample, and say "well, it looks like Meteorite NWA 5549, based on my experience", and call it that.  The name means, yes, it's been tested.

 

I suppose what I'm trying to confirm that I'm understanding correctly is this:

 

Once the tests come back, the sample is submitted for approval by the Nomenclature Committee (NonCom) of the Meteoritical Society.  Final approval and publishing in the Bulletin can take months or years.   Once the material is approved by NonCom, it is assigned a formal name or catalog number.  At this point, the material is "classified" and can be sold as such.

 

 

So, if I see "Meteorite NWA 5549" in an ad, it is saying that this particular material (or the "main mass" it was broken off from) was tested at some point - though likely not by the current seller.  And either this particular piece or its main mass, after being tested by a scientist, was sent to NonCom, and was classified and can thus be called "Meteorite NWA 5549".  And can therefore be legally sold as such.  

 

Sound right?

 

Thank you!!! 


Edited by mark8888, 28 October 2014 - 10:23 AM.


#17 Glassthrower

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Posted 28 October 2014 - 11:29 PM

If a meteorite, or the main mass it was broken off from, has never specifically been tested scientifically, at any point - it must be called "unclassified".  A dealer cannot look at a sample, and say "well, it looks like Meteorite NWA 5549, based on my experience", and call it that.  The name means, yes, it's been tested.

 

 

Yes, that is true.  No dealer should "self-classify" or "self-pair" any (but the most distinctive) meteorites.  Self-pairing is frowned upon in the dealer world, but many dealers often do it.  For example - Sikhote Alin is a very distinctive iron meteorite.  It looks like no other.  I can spot a Sikhote Alin from a mile away and most dealers would feel confident identifying such a meteorite.  Let's say I run across a meteorite in a thrift store.  I know that is unlikely, but for sake of argument, let's go with it.  There is a meteorite sitting on the shelf next to a bunch of other stuff.  The label just says "meteorite - $10".  If it is a Sikhote Alin, I can tell in two seconds.  I would feel very confident offering such as a meteorite as Sikhote Alin.

 

Now, let's say the meteorite on the thrift store shelf is a non-distinctive stony meteorite of indeterminate origin.  Let's suppose it has chondrules showing on the surface and a cut window showing metal fleck and chondrules in the matrix.  So, it's definitely a meteorite, but I have no idea what type or locality.  I would only offer it as "unclassified stony meteorite".  Even if it looked like Chelyabinsk, I would not offer it as such.  However, some dealers might decide to identify the meteorite on their own and offer it as "Chelyabinsk".  That happens.  I don't do it and my sources don't either.  But some people do and it's often difficult or impossible to tell based on appearances.
 

 

So, if I see "Meteorite NWA 5549" in an ad, it is saying that this particular material (or the "main mass" it was broken off from) was tested at some point - though likely not by the current seller.  And either this particular piece or its main mass, after being tested by a scientist, was sent to NonCom, and was classified and can thus be called "Meteorite NWA 5549".  And can therefore be legally sold as such.

 

 

Yup, exactly.  Unless that meteorite was tested somewhere along the chain of custody, then it is not classified. 

 

Another quick example.  I recently received some mesosiderite nuggets.  These were recovered from the same strewnfield as NWA 2932 (a classified meso) and they originated from the same Moroccan source who introduced NWA 2932 into the market years ago.  However, this new batch of material was never tested - not by the Moroccan source, not by my US wholesaler, or not by me.

 

I have owned NWA 2932 previously, and I can confidently state that I am "almost certain" this material is indeed NWA 2932.  But, I am not 100% certain it is NWA 2932.  This batch of material is not large enough to be economically feasible to test - there are expenses involved in testing.  So, I have no plans to have it tested.  While I am not 100% certain it is NWA 2932, I am 100% certain it is a mesosiderite that originated from the same strewnfield.  It is definitely not a meteorwrong.  But, I cannot in good conscience offer it as "NWA 2932".  So, I am offering it as "Unclassified Mesosiderite, Likely Paired to NWA 2932".  This gives the buyer the information they need to make their own decision whether or not to acquire a specimen.  This is what any good dealer should do.  However, I would bet there are several dealers who would go ahead and offer the specimens as "NWA 2932".  And honestly, there is little or no way to tell unless you ask the dealer - and some may not be forthcoming about the true nature of the specimens because they do not want to be exposed as a dealer who engages in "self-pairing".

 

If I buy a rare coin, there are ways to easily determine what it is.  Meteorites are an entirely different matter.  The only sure-fire way to identify a meteorite in an authoritative manner is to test it using an Electron Microprobe.  This is a million-dollar piece of precision equipment that only the largest institutions and universities have.  The microprobe is used in many different fields besides meteorites, and there is usually a waiting-list to access one.  So it's not easy to just find a microprobe and someone qualified to use it and interpret the results properly.  Microscope thin-section analysis can be helpful, but does not provide the precise data needed to definitively identify a meteorite's petrologic type.  XRF analysis is also helpful, but the results require correct interpretation.

 

Ok, sorry, I got off on a ramble again.  LOL.


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#18 mark8888

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Posted 30 October 2014 - 01:26 AM

Not a ramble at all, and FWIW after I write this I'm going to try to nominate your posts to be a sticky or be included in an existing one.  I think that perhaps one reason that collecting meteorites isn't a more popular hobby is skepticism about what's actually being sold.  Your detailed, "behind the scenes" description of the process from sky to dealer really helps to demystify it, and I feel much better equipped to evaluate claims in various ads as a result. Thanks!!!!!   :grin:  :bow:


Edited by mark8888, 30 October 2014 - 01:27 AM.


#19 Glassthrower

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 04:00 PM

Hi Mark,

 

Thanks for the kind words.  It's no big deal.  I can talk about meteorites until the proverbial cows come home.  Once I get started, I don't shut up.  Just ask my wife, she'll answer if she can get a word in.  ;)

 

If you or anyone else has any questions about the meteorite market, I will do my best to answer them.  :)

 

Best regards and clear skies,

 

MikeG



#20 mark8888

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 10:20 AM

Hi Mike,

 

I sent you a PM.   :)

 

Your posts above have been invaluable to me as I continue to investigate this hobby, by the way.  Thank you again.


Edited by mark8888, 18 November 2014 - 10:21 AM.


#21 107

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 06:39 PM

Mike has always been a fountain of information , & is trusted World wide , 

Ray




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