Today I'll share some snippets about Moldavite, a rare and precious stone used in handcrafted jewelry -- and which has an incredible history. If you enjoy this post, you might also like our previous posts on Rocks to Gems, A Metaphor of Transformation, and Planet Earth's Cookbook.
Moldavite got its name from the banks of the Vitava river in the Czech Republic ("Moldau", in German); it was formed when a meteorite impacted the earth's surface. The violence of the shock, and the intense heat generated, created a "glassy form" that was propelled towards this river in the town of Moldauthein (Czech: Týn nad Vltavou) - now in Bohemia (the Czech Republic). The actual impact generated a force that has been estimated at 6 trillion megatons, exceeding the power that would be generated if all the atomic bombs in the world were detonated at the same time! This enormous explosion produced a heat that was high enough to vaporize rocks, and scientists speculate that the force was sufficient to pierce the earth's crust and penetrate the earth's iron core.
[Note: This incredible specimen to the right can be found at the NoStoneUnturned333 Shop on Etsy. Nelson Novak, the artisan who created this moldavite pendant, says he considers selling/creating/altering rocks and art to be his life's work. And you can tell it's a true passion by checking out his shop and beautiful work.]
Moldavite's very cool bottle-green glass color led to its being commonly called Bouteillen-stein, and in fact people thought at first that it was glasswork from the neighborhood where it was found. But in 1900, F.E. Suess pointed out that the gravel-size modavites exhibited curious pittings and wrinkles on the surface that resembeled the characteristic markings on many meteorites. He boldly attributed the material to a cosmic incident. There was much debate about it at the time, but now the current overwhelming consensus among earth scientists is that moldavites were indeed formed about 15 - 20 million years ago, during the impact of a giant meteorite.
The impact LIQUIFIED the landscape where the meteors landed (try to imagine!!), forming fused glass at very high heat. The glass was then ejected from the meteor craters in Germany and propelled hundreds of miles away, landing in Moldau. Splatters of material melted by the impact cooled while they were airborne; as the molten rock traveled at high speed through the upper atmosphere, the super-heated material was shaped into a variety of unusual formations typical of splash patterns found in liquids: spherical, oval, drop, dumbbell, elliptical, rodlike or spiral. The rarest of moldavites resemble intricate opened flowers.
Scientists are unsure about the exact origins or composition of moldavite. It is not considered to be a member of the mineral family and displays unusual characteristics. It is classed as a mineraloid gemstone, a member of the tektite family, with no classifiable crystal structure. Moldavite's chemistry is unique and as yet unexplained. It is the rarest of gems, perhaps more rare than diamonds, rubies or emeralds.
The total amount of moldavite scattered around the world is estimated at 275 tons. There are typically two grades of moldavite: high quality, often referred to as museum grade, and regular grade. Museum and regular grade moldavite can be distinguished from their appearance; the regular grade pieces are usually darker and more saturated in their green colour, and the surface is seen as closely spaced pitting or weathering. This type sometimes appears to have been broken apart from a larger chunk. Moldavite is also found to be compatible with borosilicate glass and can be fused to it with ease.
The museum grade has a distinct fern-like pattern and is much more translucent than the regular grade. There is usually a fairly big difference in the price between the two. The museum grade "flower bursts" are much more prized by the connoisseur. High-quality moldavite stones are often used in hand-crafted jewellery and thus enter the market away from mainstream jewellery fashions, more centered on art and craft, and as such have gained an almost cult status.
Moldavites have been prized for over 25,000 years, since archaeologists have discovered moldavite shards and pieces in cave dwellings of that era. It was regarded as a spiritual charm by the people of Eastern Europe, and was also made into arrowheads and cutting tools.
It is sometimes called the "Grail Stone"; legends say that the Holy Grail was formed out of a green stone that fell from Lucifer's crown as he descended from his heavenly abode to Hell, impelled by the force of a blow from the sword of Michael the Archangel. Until recently it was assumed the Grail Stone was emerald, but recently metaphysical rockhounds have suggested that the true Grail Stone is moldavite. Further, Metaphysical believers say Moldavite has a role in helping Earth heal itself -- providing grounding for newly incarnated souls who have a more cosmic view of existence. [Note: the gorgeous pendant above was found at the Arkadian Collection -- check them out for more details...]
Moldavite has also been linked to the legendary Stone of Shamballa. The stories exist in many cultures and are essentially variations on a single theme. A stone falls from heaven and is lost. Man's job is to recover the stone, use it to transform himself and the world, and then return it to its source. Some people who hold Moldavite report quite a variety of sensations, from a slight tingle or warmth in their hand, sometimes spreading to the whole body. Others say it opens the heart chakra, causing strange, but not painful, sensations in the chest, an emotional release, and a 'flushing' of the face (thus the phrase 'Moldavite flush' has been coined). Some people will feel light headed and dizzy, or may have a sensation of being lifted out of their body. Not being an afficionado of metaphysics myself, I don't know, but now I'd like to have a very special piece of this stone to hold and see what happens! I did see some at the Tucson gem show this last spring, and was immediately drawn to them -- but I was too busy flitting around to look at the other rare stones to stop and spend quality time with them.
I hope you've enjoyed the story of this mysterious and beautiful stone. We'll look at more exotic gemstones in the next few posts. Let us know what stones you'd like to know more about!
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Until next time,