Collecting My Thoughts

The end of one year and the beginning of the next always seem to be a time of reflection for me. I think about the things I did during the year and the things that I did not complete. This last year I left two ceramics projects I wanted to do not even attempted. So they roll over to 2016. I was thinking just days ago about the up coming Gem Show in Tucson and I realized that I had actually only bought two meteorites last year during the whole remaining 10 months after the 2015 gem show. I wondered about what that meant. There were several possibilities. First, I have too many meteorites already and that it takes something really special to now get beyond my buyer’s resistance. A trait I have from my upbringing in an outrageously frugal home. Second, might be that I was too busy with everything else in life to do much shopping for meteorites. Thirdly, it might be that there have been so many fantastic meteorites brought to the market in the last couple decades that I am actually satisfied with my collection as it is. I am not sure that any one of those reasons explains why I did not get new collection pieces for 10 months. It may be a combination of all three.

But, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is coming soon. I always get excited about going and seeing my friends and the meteorites. I am sure that I will find some great space rocks again. Guess I should order some more Rikers now so I have them for when I get home from the show.

Beginnings of years is when I think about management of the meteorites and the collection and that’s what this article is going to be mostly about. Everyone displays and stores their meteorites differently and here are a few things I have done.

We have all acquired many small pieces of meteorite along with our more sizable space rocks. I have tried to be a little creative with how to store and display these smalls. Many fit in membrane boxes and I have plenty of those. Some meteorites just don’t work for membrane boxes or deserve something better. And since I have a liking for stuff that is old I have placed many meteorites into bottles with cork stoppers and handwritten labels on the outside. It is a quaint and attractive way to protect and display them. I make wooden stands that hold a dozen or more bottles. They look nice in the display case; take up little room and therefore make a few more meteorites accessible. Sometimes I put into a bottle crumbs that develop when cutting or flakes that come off when cleaning. Even dust sometimes if the meteorite is special enough to warrant the extra trouble of collecting the dust from the saw. The bottle holder shown below has some of those type things along with some small meteorites.

I started years ago making caliper mounts for some of the larger whole individual meteorites. I have this love like I mentioned above for old or old-looking stuff. So the idea of getting beautiful new polished brass caliper stands was just not in my thinking. I go instead to the garage and get some steel rod and bend it and braze on steel nuts and a steel post threaded on the end. Then take some brass threaded rod and cut some pieces an inch or so long. After drilling a dimple in one end and cutting slot for a screw driver in the other the threaded rod is used to adjust and tighten against the meteorite. Then I put a circle cutter into the drill press and make some round wooden bases to screw my steel posts to. They are easy to make and look old and fit my DIY mentality.

I have been a antique clock restorer and repairer for most of my life and when I see an old glass clock dome I always try to buy it. These have made their way into my meteorite collection as well. They often come with a wooden base. The clock itself is often missing or beyond repair so I have the base and dome and into them goes a meteorite. This works well for the ones that need to stay a little dry too. Once they are covered with the glass dome they are in a micro environment that does not change. Just a little concealed desiccant and the meteorite is Ok for a long time. Another little trick I have been using lately is to take the humidity indicator cards that I have a lot of and use my hole punching tools to cut out just the indicator spots and dispose of the rest of the card. This saves a lot of room, leaves the meteorite more visible and still lets me monitor the dryness of the container.

I have two or three meteorite spheres and I made stands for them out of clay with meteorite powder added to it and fired them with glaze colored with meteorite powder. There is nothing particularly artistic about the stands. They just serve a utilitarian purpose. But I like to merge my hobbies whenever possible.

I have always used the plastic bags with the white patch for writing on. I am sure these are commonly used by many of us. I originally had some confidence that they were sealed and my meteorites were protected. What I have learned more recently by including a humidity indicator card in the bags is that they do not protect them and that within a few months a large amount of silica gel will be totally depleted. When I checked a container that had about a dozen bags of various meteorites I found every indicator card was above 50% relative humidity. The humidity monitors in my office and my display cases usually show around 45 -50% so clearly the desiccant in the plastic bags was totally depleted and the meteorites not protected as well as I thought.

The plastic bags are not as big an issue really as the last paragraph might suggest. I use silica gel in bead form routinely with many of my meteorites. Since most are not going to show any problems regardless of the humidity, it is just going to be the occasional fussy one that might suffer. But it was quite an eye opener to see how fast the moisture got into the bags. So I have to do some better monitoring and figure out where the moisture is getting in. My guess at present is the zip lock strip. When I checked two of the strips, each were able to be squeezed tighter. So either I did not press them together tight enough originally or they relaxed with time and handling becoming less than airtight.

My easiest solution for the meteorites that I will not be getting into very often is to redo the bags with fresh desiccant and then place all the bags as a group into another container which is completely air tight. So that is one of my projects for the beginning of this year.

I still have a few meteorites on my want list. And I will keep my eyes peeled for them at Tucson. But, regardless of whether or not I see those meteorites I am sure I will find some that I can not resist taking home.

I have done a poor job of keeping up with the recent falls. In fact a couple I could have gone and hunted I did not even hear about. I have been doing too much astrophotography I am a little disconnected from breaking meteorite news. But it has never been a big deal for me to get every new one that falls. I know it is the singular focus of some collectors. And paying the price of newly fallen stones is really a problem with my upbringing. I understand the dynamics of it. The high cost to go and find them, the dangers and recently the relatively small amounts of recovered material. And the finders need to of course make money. I am not criticizing the hunter/dealers and their prices. I am just saying I am handicapped by a mental state coming out of my childhood which causes me to over think every purchase in life. So I guess it is good that I have never looked at my collection as an investment. I guess it is likewise good that I have never felt that I had to have the largest most expensive and impressive meteorites. I have done well though and I have a fine collection after forty odd years of accumulation. And I think I have moved over some kind of a hump in my thinking. I am actually quite satisfied with the state of the collection. I don’t think I am as obsessed as I was 15-20 years ago or even 5 to 10 years ago about acquiring more. Just getting a few each year is enough now. I was getting dozens each year back in the past.

I love to look through the boxes of unclassified meteorites at the Tucson Gem Show. I always find a few meteorites that need a home and over the years many of these have made it into one display case. But a few have found a soft place to rest in small wooded instrument boxes. I found a batch of these at the local electronics swap meet. I don’t know what was originally in them my guess would be some piece of microwave equipment or a gauge. I have them in several different sizes and shapes. I cleaned them up and made black velvet pads for the tops and bottoms. They are not air tight but work for many of the nice fusion crusted chondrites.

Working and playing with the meteorites as described in this article has actually been way more fun then the acquiring of them was. There is the photography, the cutting and polishing and occasional thin sectioning of them, the microscopy of them; I enjoy those things all year long. I guess I am still obsessed with meteorites. As I sit here writing this I am literally surrounded by meteorites. Not a day goes by that I am not somehow involved with them. They have certainly provided a great amount of enjoyment and knowledge throughout my life.

I hope that this upcoming year is an opportunity for all the readers to also enjoy the meteorites in their collections and to those who are beginning collections, you have a great adventure ahead of you.

About the Author

James Tobin
The Meteorite Exchange, Inc. was born in 1996 with meteorite.com and Meteorite Times Magazine in 2002. Still enthusiastic about meteorites and all things related to them, we hunt, collect, cut and prepare specimens. We travel to gem shows and enjoy meteorites as much now as in the beginning. Please feel free to share any comments you have on this or any of our other sites.
Top