It is believed that about one quarter of asteroids contain metals and rare minerals. They fall into three categories, metallic, mixed salicaceous mineral, and carbonaceous. Many of the metallic asteroids contain sizable amounts of rare earth elements and precious metals such as platinum and gold.
Earth has been the recipient of many gifts from meteorites that crashed on Earth. Below is a list of some of the gems and metals that landed from the Heavens.
Peridot – the August birthstone is naturally found from Earth. However, some Peridot is extraterrestrial. Although it is extremely rare, space Peridot has been recovered from some meteorites. In the 1960s, scientists discovered the Esquel Meteorite contained numerous Peridot crystals.
Black Diamonds – The origin of black diamonds, also known as carbonados, has been a geological puzzle for a long time – they don’t follow any of the rules of diamond mineralogy. The formation of these rare diamonds remains a mystery, however, some theorize that they come from radiation from asteroid impacts or exploding stars four or five billion years ago!
Moldavite – A rare, dark green translucent gem that was formed when a meteorite struck Earth near the Czech Republic around 14 million years ago. The gem has yet to be found anywhere else on Earth. Moldavite is brittle and has the same hardness as eyeglasses (5 to 5.5). For this reason, it is sold as a collector’s gem and doesn’t have enough durability to be worn as jewelry.
Sterling Silver – In the early 1800s, a meteorite deposit was found in Namibia near the town of Gibeon – it became known as the Gibeon Meteorite. Comprised of iron and nickel with significant amounts of cobalt and phosphorous, it contains a pattern unlike any other found on Earth. Many jewelers have found creative ways to turn this meteorite into beautiful pieces of wearable jewelry.
If the idea of owning or wearing something extraterrestrial is intriguing to you, the future may be bright.
Demand for rare and precious metals continues to grow. As supplies dwindle, and prices rise, some believe that sourcing materials from space may be the future of mining. Over the last 50 years, scientists have been investigating ways to mine asteroid for resources. A single asteroid could contain millions, billions, or even trillions of dollars worth of rare metals. In December of 2020, a metallic asteroid 140 miles wide came close to Earth and was worth an estimated $10,000 quaddrillion in value!
The challenge lies in harvesting it. In 2012, the California Institute of technology conducted a study about the feasibility of extracting metals from asteroids that come near Earth. According to the study, it would be possible to redirect an asteroid to orbit the Moon, but the cost would be in the billions. By redirecting it to orbit the Moon, it would make it accessible to conduct and survey for precious metals and extract them.
We may have a long way to go, but the possibility of mining gems and metals from space is very real!