With all the emphasis placed on taking Earth art into space, it seems the market has missed a major opportunity: bringing space art to Earth. An auction currently taking place at Christie’s seeks to address this shortfall, with a collection of lots made from pieces of the Moon, Mars, and meteorites. Deep Impact opened on March 14, and bidding has already begun from people hankering to own a piece of some of the rarest rocks this side of our atmosphere.
The crown jewel of the auction, so to speak, is a single-strand necklace of matched “lunar beads” — that is, jewelry literally made out of our own Moon — in a first-of-its-kind offering at auction. Each of the 48 beads on the stand is made of Moon meteorites, which are little bits of matter ejected from the Moon due to asteroid strikes, identifiable by specific geological, mineralogical, chemical, and radiation signatures. The Lunar Necklace was bid up to $10,000 at the time of this writing, but with a week left to go in the auction, one imagines it will draw closer — or even eclipse (heh) — its estimate of $140,000 to $200,000. Not since diamonds has an environment of forced scarcity created so much economic leverage!
“If you love her to the Moon and back,” Christie’s Head of Science and Natural History James Hyslop said in a press release, “it’s nice to have something to show for the journey.” Though the winning bid will be subject to the usual closing fees, you can have that line for the gift card for free. (Oh, did he propose to you with a diamond? How terrestrial.)
Several pieces up for auction are being framed as sculptures, such as a lot titled “Emoji Sent from an Asteroid,” apparently originating from a shattered asteroid about 650 million years ago. The event resulted in the Henbury meteorite shower that rained iron upon Australia’s Northern Territory about 4,200 years ago, creating a field of 13 craters measuring up to 425 feet across and 50 feet deep that was deemed sacred by the Indigenous Arrernte people. The reference to emoji in the title of the piece clearly refers to the anthropomorphic wide-eyed, open-mouthed face that appears on the rock, though it might be argued that it somewhat diminishes the gravitas of the ancient space rock. But then again, nobody ever got rich by respecting the majesty of space or the sovereignty of Native peoples.
Aside from calling your wealth manager to see how much you have on hand to invest in space rocks, you may be wondering about the legalities of owning a piece of the Moon, as the layperson understanding is that the sale of Moon rocks is illegal. In truth, lunar material can naturally be found on Earth in desert regions in northern Africa, Oman, and Antarctica, and these rocks are fair game on the open market; it is only illegal in the case of Moon rocks collected on the Apollo mission, which are NASA and US government property that cannot be sold or exchanged to private citizens, according to rock collectors and lawyers.
It is also legal for hobbyists to casually collect bits of meteorites (up to ten pounds per person, per year!) on public lands, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Scientific and commercial collection of such specimens must be permitted.
Now that we’ve dealt with the pesky legalities, everyone will surely be eager to start freeing up amounts in the low-five to low-six figures to spend on rocks from space! With 68 options, including nine different offerings of colorful pallasite meteorites presented raw, sliced, and shaped, you can hardly afford not to get your hands on one of these sweet babies.
“Meteorites inspire us the way no other object can,” said Hyslop. “Holding a piece of another world in your hand is an experience you never forget.”
At these prices, you better not let anyone else forget it, either.