“An uncommon smooth metallic surface delimits a somewhat ellipsoidal metallic abstract form,” the description for the auction item reads. The object is “wrapped in a gunmetal patina with splashes of cinnamon and platinum-hued accents.”
That all reads like we’re talking about a sculpture, and indeed the full description compares it with the semi-abstract bronze works of Henry Moore. But the only artist responsible for this particular item is the cosmos itself.
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This meteorite, known as the Matchless Canyon Diablo, and others like it sold for record prices Wednesday in a Christie’s online auction. This one in particular went for an astonishing price of $237,500, on the very high end of the $150,000 to $250,000 estimate.
Beyond its incredible natural beauty, the meteorite is part of one of the most famous impact craters on Earth. It comes from Meteor Crater — previously known as the Canyon Diablo crater, hence the meteorite’s name — in Arizona, which is the pristinely preserved aftermath of an asteroid impact 50,000 years ago.
As the Christie’s site explains, this and other fragments of the original, largely vaporized Canyon Diablo asteroid are prized as the American meteorite. Some of that is down to the global prestige of the site. But it’s also because of how gorgeous these fragments are, which is accentuated by the holes and openings, known as sockets, in the rock.
“In a process referred to as terrestrialization, these sockets expanded in size when exposed to Earth’s elements as the seasons turned over tens of thousands of years,” Christie’s explains in the description. “Some of these hollows expanded sufficiently to entirely penetrate the mass resulting in the sought-after rarity of a naturally formed hole. This meteorite has seven such complete holes, perhaps the most of any single iron meteorite.”
While no meteorite went for even close to how much the Matchless Canyon Diablo did, some of the others absolutely shattered the scale for the expected price. Another meteorite, for instance, was valued between $10,000 and $15,000 and ended up selling for $81,250. Another valued between $1,000 and $1,500 and went for $10,625.
Maybe we really are talking about sculpture after all.