Snapshots from the Tucson 2004 Gem and Mineral Show
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The High Ground II

Blaine Reed shows specimens from numerous falls in his Room 110 at Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show at the Vagabond Plaza Hotel (formerly the Ramada Inn). He presents several tables covered with cases and baskets and boxes of space rocks, which also overflow onto bedspace and floorspace in his room. I appreciated Blaine's hospitality and the opportunity to spend some time checking out, learning about and photographing specimens from various falls here, including some Moon rocks and Mars rocks.

Blaine is depicted at work at left, sitting on his bed-top "office" in his room at the Vagabond Plaza. A scale, calculator, box of specimen ID cards and invoice pad were all close at hand.

Blaine offered bins of mixed and unclassified stony meteorites from unspecified Northwest Africa falls. This material ranged in price from 10 cents per gram for the smallest material to 25 cent per gram for the largest and better quality pieces. Shown in hand above right is a representative assortment of the 10 cents per gram sized material. Some are sub-$5 meteorites. Shown in hand at left is a larger specimen which was of typical size for those from a 20 cents per gram bin. This one weighed in at 670.5 grams and so would cost $134.10.

Here is a bucket full of specimens from a classified Northwest Africa fall, NWA 869. NWA 869 is a stony meteorite which was discovered in 1999 near Tindouf in Algeria. The total weight this fall has been estimated by various sources to be between 1200 and 3000 kilograms, making it one of the largest total known weight stony meteorites found to date in Northwest Africa.

The specimens lining the bottom of the bucket were priced at 20 cents per gram. The cut and polished specimens of NWA 869 contained in the box were priced at 25 cents per gram. Pictured above right is an uncut specimen that weighed in at 168.39 grams which works out to $33.68 for this specimen. Pictured at left is a pretty 39.78 gram specimen that has a cut and polished face. Note the chondrules. I thought this one was a real pretty $7.95 space rock.

Hey, even though I have already acquired a number of specimens from this fall at previous Shows to cut for display specimens and possibly some unique gem material to be incorporated into bolas or manifestations of other still somewhat vague notions of space theme jewelry, I must have been asleep at the shutter when I visited with this one. If I had bothered to work out the price at the time I think I would have found this one irresistible. I intend to snag it the next time I go by the Vagabond Plaza show if someone else hasn't already appreciated it faster than I did...

Specimens of this meteorite vary rather widely which has complicated its classification. UCLA originally classified NWA 869 as an L4 chondrite, but later reclassified it to L5, which stands as it's current official classification. It has also been classified from L3.9 to L6 by a number of institutions around the world. Several of these classifications have also characterized NWA 869 as brecciated. Approximately 80 percent of meteorite falls are chondrites. Chondrites are characterized by the presence of chondrules, which are small spheres of previously melted minerals that have come together with other mineral matter to form as solid rock. Chondrites are regarded to be among the oldest rocks in the solar system.

When cut and polished, NWA 869 matrix is full of color and chondrules. Some specimens of NWA 869 also display what appear to be carbonaceous inclusions and some also show clear brecciation, while others do not.

Blaine showed Putorana specimens, which was at first believed to be a meteorite, but subsequently discredited and now regarded to be terrestrial iron in basalt. For further information regarding Putorana check out A "Mesosiderite Rock from Putorana, Russia: Not a Meteorite and Putorana - Maybe the Best Meteorwrong.

The Putorana specimen shown above left is about 10 inches across and weighs 973 grams. A quarter helps provide scale. It wanted $1.50 per gram which works out to $1459.50.

A penny provides scale for the smaller slices of the Putorana material pictured above left, which were priced at $2 per gram. The slice of Putorana in hand depicted in hand above right is about 2 1/4 inches across and weighs 55.7 grams, which calculates to $111.40. This is a very interesting and striking material in its own right and I admired the aesthetics of it. However at $2 per gram, which works out to about $900 per pound, I think I'll hold out for genuine extraterrestrials.

Sharing the box with the Putorana material and pictured at left are slices of Thuathe, which is classified as an H4/5 chondrite. Thuathe was a widely witnessed fall that occurred in Lesotho. On Sunday July 21, 2002, a fireball was witnessed traveling east to west before an extraordinarily loud explosion shook almost every town in Lesotho at approximately 1:49 PM, which was also heard and felt in South Africa.

Over 1000 stones fell on the Thuathe Plateau and in villages in the surrounding valley. Some eye witnesses reported seeing smoke trails and other reported stones falling close to them or their homes. The total known weight of Thuathe is approximately 30 kilograms. These Thuathe specimens wanted $7 per gram for pieces ranging in weight from 1.43 to 10.87 grams, which works out to about from $10 to $76 each.

While rummaging through the odds and ends bin shown above left I found this pretty slice of Ghubara, shown above right. This was one of about 7 or 8 Ghubara specimens in one of the bags in this odds and ends bin. They ranged in size from 5.2 to 32.9 grams and were priced at $1.50 per gram, which works out to about from $7.80 to $49.35 each.

Ghubara was found in 1954 on the surface of the desert in Oman. It is classified as an L5 ordinary chondrite. Stones from this fall are described to be fresh internally with fusion crust that is only slightly weathered. Total weight of the fall is unknown but many kilograms have been found.

Shown above left and right is Tenham, which fell during the spring of 1879 in South Gregory, Queensland, Australia. This meteorite is classified as an L6 ordinary chondrite. Although several people are reported to have observed Tenham fall from Tenham Station, the exact date has apparently been lost. The strewn field is reported to be about 12 miles long and 3 miles wide. The larger Tenham specimens are said to have been recovered from the end of the distribution ellipse rather than the beginning, which is anomalous for strewn fields. Tenham is well known for its shock veins. This material shows strong shock metamorphism with shock veins containing ringwoodite and majorite, the high pressure phases of olivine and pyroxene.

A quarter helps provides scale for the Tenham specimens shown in the basket above left, which is about 6 inches across. Blaine was offering Tenham at $3.00 per gram. A cut and polished Tenham specimen which weighs in at 422.86 grams is shown in hand above right, which calculates out to $1268.59.

Shown at left with a quarter providing scale is a pretty specimen of Sikhote-Alin, a nickel-iron meteorite which can be silverpicked with relatively modest damage to the billfold. Sikhote-Alin is one of the most spectacular falls of recorded history and one of a very small number of recent iron meteorite falls. It fell during morning daylight on February 12, 1947 in dense forest in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains, 25 miles from Novopoltavka, Maritime Province, USSR.

Witnesses reported a shower of fireballs brighter than the sun which left a trail of smoke and dust 20 miles long that lingered for the remainder of the day. As Sikhote-Alin entered the Earth's atmosphere some of it began to break apart and this group of fragments fell together. When the descending group of meteorites reached an altitude of approximately 20,000 feet, the largest mass appears to have exploded into numerous fragments.

Light and sound from Sikhote-Alin were observed for two hundred miles around the impact, which produced 106 impact holes over an area covering about half a square mile, the largest being 85 feet across and 20 feet deep. Many fragments up to 300 kg in weight and totaling over 23000 kilograms were found scattered inside and outside the holes.

Specimens from this fall are of two general types. Some Sikhote-Alin specimens known as "complete individuals" exhibit ablation and fusion crust. These are probably pieces that broke off of the main mass at high altitude early in the decent. Their surface is vaporized and eroded by atmospheric heating. These specimens are characterized by regmaglypts, also known as "thumb prints", which are ablation cavities in the surface of the specimen.

The other type of Sikhote-Alin specimens are the "cold worked" fragments. Fragments exhibit the violent effects of being being blasted apart. These were probably produced by the low altitude explosion or upon impact with the ground. Many fragments resemble shrapnel.

Structurally Sikhote-Alin is classified as a coarsest octahedrite. The Widmanstatten figures are so large on Sikhote-Alin that no crystal structure may be apparent on small specimens when they are polished and etched. Chemically Sikhote-Alin is classified as type IIB. Minerals found in Sikhote-Alin include kamacite, taenite, plessite, schreibersite, rhabite, troilite and chromite.

Due to the large amount of Sikhote-Alin which fell and has made its way to market, it is one of the most affordable meteorites available to collectors. Blaine was offering this pretty 6100 gram Sikhote-Alin individual at $2700, which works out to about 44 cents per gram.

Shown at left is a an eye appealing slice of $2 per gram Forestburg (b), which is one of two chondrites found in a dry creek bed in Montague County near Forestburg, Texas in 1957. They were initially thought to be specimens of the same meteorite which had been transported to the location of their finds in the creek bed.

However 26.1 kilogram Forestburg (a) has been classified as an L4 and 26.6 kilogram Forestburg (B) has been classified as an L5 and are not paired. The slice of Forestburg (b) in hand at left was about 2 3/4 inches overall and about 3/16 inch thick. I found it in another bag in the odds and ends bin containing 4 or 5 other slices of Forestburg. These weighed from 14.9 grams to 44.7 grams, the 44.7 gram slice being the one pictured. At $2 per gram, this one works out to $89.40.

Shown above is an attractive slice of Leedey, which was a witnessed fall in Dewey County, Oklahoma on November 25, 1943. Leedey is classified as an L6 ordinary chondrite. The recovered weight from Leedey is approximately 50 kilograms.

The 417.8 gram slice of Leedey shown above left was about 8 inches across. Above right is a closer view of some of the chondrules peppering the slice. This slice of Leedey was offered by Blaine for $2100, which works out to about $5 per gram.

Shown above left is a basket of Gold Basin stones with a quarter helping to provide scale. In hand above right is a 68.03 gram specimen of Gold Basin which has been cut and polished to display the material, which is classified as an L4 ordinary chondrite. Gold Basin was initially found and recognized as extraterrestrial on November 24, 1995 in an area of arroyos draining the White Hills in Mohave County, Arizona by Professor Jim Kriegh while prospecting for gold with a metal detector. However, metal detecting gold prospectors had reportedly been passing over this material for years as "hot rocks" before they were recognized to be meteorites. The total known weight of Gold Basin collected from a strewn field of approximately 130 square kilometers in extent is about 127 kilograms. There are indications this fall may be 20-25,000 years old, making it the oldest known strewn field outside of Antarctica.

Blaine was offering Gold Basin specimens sliced or not for $1.25 per gram. That works out to about $85 for the piece shown in hand above right.

Shown in box with a dime providing scale above left is a box of Indochinite specimens from the Paulin District in Thailand. Indochinites are the best known of the tektites with classic teardrop and cigar shaped specimens found in rice paddies throughout the Thailand, Laos and Vietnam area. The origin of tektites in general remains somewhat mysterious and controversial, but many believe them to be formed during large meteorite impacts with the Earth. They are found in apparent strewn fields which are sometimes thousands of miles in extent.

Blaine was selling these Indochinites for 10 cents per gram. The larger of the pair shown in my hand above right weighs 37.4 grams and the smaller weighs 29.74 grams. I figured I better have a couple more black tektites as potential accent material to lapidary for a meteorite bola tie I have in mind, and just as cool rocks to have around in the meanwhile. Blaine gave me a quantity discount and sold me the pair for $5 and they went home with me.

Over 1000 stones fell in a 2.5 x 10.5 kilometer strewn field near the Yellow River on February 15, 1997. Originally known as Heze, this fall is now designated Juancheng, after the county name in the Heze Region where the fall occurred. By one account a meteorite from this fall penetrated a roof, landing in a pot atop a stove. Juancheng is classified as an H5 chondrite. The total known weight from Juancheng is more than 100 kilograms.

Blaine was offering the Juancheng specimens shown at left with a penny providing scale for $5 per gram. There were complete individuals with nice crust. When a collector browsing the room mentioned an interest in oriented meteorites, Blaine got out some more Juancheng for him to examine and sort through, and he found a nice one that went home with him.

The Dhofar 081 specimens shown above left and right originate from a lunar meteorite found in the Dhofar region of Oman on November 29, 1999. The fragments weigh from .032 to .086 grams and were commanding $4000 per gram. The largest fragment at .086 grams shown above right works out to $344. This Moon rock is classified and described as a feldspathic fragmental breccia consisting of clasts of older impact-melt breccias and plutonic rocks embedded into a devitrified fine-grained matrix.

Shown at left are two specimens of another lunar meteorite, Dhofar 461, which was also found in Oman on April 22, 2001. Dhofar 461 is classified and described as an anorthositic crystalline melt breccia, and is paired with the lunar meteorite Dhofar 026. The total known weight of Dhofar 461 is 33.7 kilograms. These specimens were offered at $1500 per gram. The smaller of the two weighs .123 grams and the larger .247 grams, which works out to $184.50 and $370.50 respectively.

More Martians! On an October afternoon in 1962, the Zagami meteorite landed in Katasina Province, Nigeria, about 10 feet away from a farmer who was trying to chase crows from his corn field. He heard a tremendous explosion and was buffeted by a pressure wave. With a puff of smoke and a thud, the meteorite buried itself in a hole about 2 feet deep. Weighing about 18 kilograms (~40 pounds), the Zagami meteorite is the largest single individual Mars meteorite ever found. The Zagami is an achondrite, which makes it a stony type meteorite lacking the chondrules characteristic of chondrites. It is classified as an SNC calcium-rich shergottite. Zagami's immediate effect on the crows remains undocumented.

Zagami was sent to the Kaduna Geological Survey and placed in a museum. Subsequently, Robert Haag, a Tucson meteorite dealer, traded for a large portion of it and Zagami became available on the private market to collectors. Pictured above left are capsules inside magnifier type specimen boxes containing small fragments of Zagami priced at $30 each. Hey now these are just the cat's meow for Mars rock collectors on a tight budget!

Shown above right are several small specimens of NWA 1068, which is a Martian meteorite discovered in the Moroccan Sahara during 2001 by a French team of collectors. They recovered 23 stones consisting of a larger single mass weighing 522 grams and 22 small fragments weighing less than 20 grams each. The total known weight of this fall is approximately 700 grams. Specimens of NWA 1068 are greenish-brown and partially coated by desert varnish. They do not exhibit fusion crust and cracks in them are filled with terrestrial calcium carbonate. Thin shock veins and small melt pockets are reported to be abundant in this meteorite.

NWA 1068 is classified as an SNC olivine-phyric shergottite. It has been published as the closest SNC to match the results of the Mars Pathfinder soil and rock analysis. Blaine was offering these micromount sized specimens of NWA 1068 for $300 per gram. These specimens weighed from .076 to .370 grams, which works out to from $22.80 to $111.00 each.

Specimens of another Martian, NWA 998 are shown at left. These were priced at $1500 per gram and range in size from .006 to to .114 grams, which works out to a spread of prices ranging from $9 to $171. Also shown at left is a thin section of NWA 998 which wanted $500. This Martian was initially found by a nomadic group in western Algeria or eastern Morocco and sold in September 2001. The locality is difficult to confirm because the Berber nomads will not disclose its exact location and no more has been recovered.

NWA 998 is classified as an orthopyroxene nakhlite and described as a friable, dark green rock with minor orange-brown alteration products that probably are of pre-terrestrial origin. NWA 998 is composed mainly of subhedral, olive-green, complexly-zoned subcalcic augite with subordinate yellow olivine, orthopyroxene, interstitial plagioclase, titanomagnetite, chlorapatite, and pyrrhotite. The overall texture of NWA 998 is that of a hypabyssal, adcumulate igneous rock, and the apparent crystallization sequence is olivine, orthopyroxene, titanomagnetite, augite, apatite, plagioclase. The total weight known is 456 grams.

Blaine showed yet more Martians. .028 to .748 gram slabs of Dhofar 19 are shown above left, which were priced at $550 per gram. That calculates out as $15.40 for the smallest to $411.40 for the largest. These Dhofar 19 specimens originate from a brownish gray stone weighing 1056 grams that was found in Dhofar region of Oman. Dhofar 19 is classified as an olivine-phyric shergottite and described as composed of doleritic rock consisting of subhedral grains of pigeonite, augite, olivine and feldspar converted to maskelynite, with silica, potassium-rich feldspar, whitlockite, chlorapatite, chromite, ilemnite, titanomagnetite, magnetite, and pyrrhotite as secondaries.

Evidence of extensive terrestrial weathering is present in Dhofar 19 as carbonate veins crosscutting the meteorite. However there are smectite-calcite-gypsum "orangettes" replacing maskelynite, which are similar to those in ALH84001 and could be of Martian origin. In bulk chemistry Dhofar 19 is close to Shergotty; light rare earth elements are strongly depleted.

NWA 1195 is pictured above right and at left, .044 to 1.04 grams at $1000 per gram. The specimen depicted in close view at left weighs .770 gram and so wants $770 to go home. This Martian was also initially collected by nomads near Safsaf, Morocco and a fragment of it was purchased in March 2002. After NWA 1195 was identified as a Mars meteorite the remainder of the same elongated stone was successfully located and acquired. Both stones together weighed 315 grams. NWA 1195 is classified as a a rare basaltic shergottite, believed to have originated from a deeper source of Mars than any other Martian meteorite. NWA 1195 is described as olivine megacrysts up to 4 mm set in a groundmass of low-calcium pyroxene and maskelynite with minor Ti-chromite, pyrrhotite, ilmenite and magnesium-bearing merrillite.

Blaine Reed Meteorites, Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show at the Vagabond Plaza Hotel (formerly the Ramada Inn) Room 110 - PO Box 1141, Delta Colorado 81416 - Phone/Fax: 970.874.1487

Need more input? For additional information on meteorites be sure and check out the books Rocks from Space and The Robert Haag Collection of Meteorites in the References for Rockhounds catalog at Bob's Rock Shop!

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