Our earth provides us with an astounding array of precious gems, some of Mother Nature's miracles. But did you know that various situations and events lead to gem materials in outer space as well? Read on to learn about space age "jewels."
Olivine and peridot
Peridot, an olive-green gem found here on Earth, has also been recovered from meteorites on occasion, and even faceted into gemstones, though specimens are so rare that you’re unlikely to find them in most jeweler’s showcases. (Except ours! Berkeley occasionally has an opportunity to buy some specimens.)
Peridot is the gem version of a mineral called olivine, an iron and magnesium silicate -- (i.e. containing silicon). Olivine is part of the makeup of our solar system neighbors, including some metallic meteorites that occasionally fall on our home planet. While such peridot-bearing meteorites are rare enough, the intense heat from their journey to Earth and their explosive impact on contact with terra firma ensure that few specimens survive intact. That’s why peridot pieces from outer space are nearly always quite small.
Shown below are several of Berkeley Grimball's one of a kind pieces using olivine and olivine specimens from the Gemological Institute of America.
Another green gem is moldavite, an olive-green or dull greenish vitreous substance possibly formed by a meteorite impact in southern Germany.
Vitreous?? (me too!) Vitreous is term that means having glass-like properties. As you can see below.
Black diamond: An interstellar marriage proposal
Space enthusiasts might wish to consider a naturally black diamond engagement ring. There are many mysteries surrounding black diamonds. Some researchers have suggested that black diamonds rained down on Earth inside meteorites billions of years ago.
To truly achieve a match made in heaven, the couple could opt to use meteorite in their bands as well. (Ask us about our Lashbrook line of bands, they have a meteorite option!)
Shown below is a faceted black diamond, a rough black diamond, a men's wedding band using meteorite, and a rose gold engagement ring with a tear drop shaped natural black diamond (not ours, but a beautiful example from Alexis Russell).
Nearby on our moon: Pink spinel
Did you know that our own moon has pink spinel?
In 2010, a planetary scientist from Brown University along with NASA’s M3 science team discovered that rock specimens from the far side of the moon contained pink spinel, a prized jewel on Earth. Intrigued by the spinel on the far side, the researchers looked for it on the near side of the moon. And, boy, did they find it.
"What I find really amazing is the near-side spinel deposits are huge -- tens of thousands of square kilometers -- and they are sitting smack-dab in the center of the near side," says one researcher. "All of us [on Earth] have literally been staring at these our whole lives, and we didn't know they were there."
Spinel. King Henry V wore the ruby-like stone on his battle helmet, and the crown jewels of both Britain and Iran feature a collection of spinel bling. And now we know, the man in the moon wears it most of all.
It looks like rain: Green crystal rain
When it rains on a young star 1,350 light-years from earth, green crystals fall from the sky. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope recorded images of green crystal rain falling on the star, HOPS-68, in the constellation Orion. The emerald rainstorm contains the bright green mineral we discussed earlier called olivine (or peridot).
In this image by NASA, an arrow points to the embryonic star, named HOPS-68, where the olivine rain is thought to occur.
A planet made of diamond?
55 Cancri e was discovered in 2004 and is sometimes referred to as a Super Earth. It can be found within the Milky Way galaxy. After estimating the planet's mass and radius, and studying its host star's composition, scientists say the rocky world is composed mainly of carbon (in the form of diamond and graphite), as well as iron, silicon carbide, and potentially silicates. What is notable to those of us who are gem lovers is that scientists estimated that at least a third of the planet's mass is likely pure diamond!
I wish we had an exciting, glittering image to illustrate this diamond planet but this artist's conception of 55 Cancri e. By Haven Giguere of Yale University.
Clouds of ruby and sapphire
Not a jeweler's daydream! Scientists have been observing a distant planet called HAT-P-7b after it was spotted twinkling in a peculiar fashion four years ago. David Armstrong at the University of Warwick found that the exoplanet’s brightening and dimming is due to its dazzling cloud system.
“When we say clouds, they’re definitely not like clouds on Earth,” he explained in science journal Nature.
Unlike the fluffy white vapors we’re used to on our planet, the new Hat-P-7b’s clouds are made from corundum – the same mineral that results in rubies and sapphires.