Auction: how much for this 105 kilo meteorite?

Who wants to buy this 105 kilo meteorite?

Published today at 6:32 p.m.

It’s a strange sale that is being prepared at Dogny Auction. On June 4, the Lausanne house is organizing an open auction during which a meteorite fragment will be dispersed 4.5 billion years old, the same age as Earth. Composed of nearly 93% iron and 7% nickel, the ancestor shows nothing of his great age. Only the rust spots that adorn the dark – and almost melted – surface betray its longevity.

The venerable fireball is not that bulky. The future buyer can easily take it in hand luggage. As long as he or she can lift it. Although it only measures 46 centimeters long, 24 centimeters high and 31 centimeters wide, it still weighs 105 kilos. A high weight for an equally high value: Marc Dogny, the head of the auction house, estimates the stone between 20,000 and 30,000 francs.

Marc Dogny based this on the price paid by the current owner of the fragment – ​​who prefers to remain discreet – when she bought it in 2006 in a Lausanne mineral store. “When I was offered this meteorite, at the very last minute as we were about to complete the sale catalogue, I jumped at the ceiling! It’s fascinating, it’s a truly extraterrestrial object!”

Recalcitrant rocks

If this dark stone is as expensive as a sparkling diamond, it is because it originates from the far reaches of the Solar System. Before crashing into Earth, the meteorite from which the fragment came orbited the Sun, between Mars and Jupiter. During its passage through our atmosphere and then its impact with our planet in 1516, it broke into numerous fragments, scattered in the Chinese region of Nantan, which gives it its name.

For centuries, the inhabitants of Nantan County paid little attention to these ferruginous rocks. But in 1958, Mao Zedong, at the head of the People’s Republic of China, launched his Great Leap Forward economic policy. To develop industrial infrastructure and large-scale public works, steel is needed.

But the Nantan meteorite, due to its high nickel content, resisted the capacities of the Chinese blast furnaces of the time. Geologists called in as reinforcements then unravel its mystery: they are fragments of an asteroid.

Marc Dogny, the head of Dogny Auction in Lausanne, poses with the star lot of the June 4 auction: a fragment of the Nantan meteorite weighing more than 100 kilos.

Ancient appeal

Extraterrestrial objects, meteorites fascinate and increasingly interest collectors. For them, auction houses began to organize specific auctions. Thus, in 2014, Christie’s offered its first thematic auction of objects from space, which contained some fragments of extraterrestrial rock. At Dogny Auction, a single celestial body will go under the hammer, among primitive art objects, jewelry or watches, and even an oil on canvas bearing Renoir’s studio stamp.

The piece of the Nantan meteorite put up for sale at Dogny is not the only one known. The University of Oxford thus owns a shard, and in July 2022 another piece of the precious stone was sold at Sotheby’s in New York for more than $200,000.

The sales record for a fragment of aerolite is, for the moment, held by Christie’s, which, in 2021, sold one for $525,000. Several factors contribute to the surge in auctions. There is of course the fascination aroused by these extraterrestrial objects, but also their relative rarity, the supply of meteorites not being unlimited. Waiting for the next asteroid shower…

Exhibition of lots from May 30 to June 2 at Dogny Auction, chemin de Montelly 2 in Lausanne. Auction on June 4 at 1:45 p.m. Information: dognyauction.ch.

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Catherine Cochard is a journalist for the Vaud section and is interested in social issues. She also produces podcasts. Previously, she worked for Le Temps and as an independent director for the University of Zurich.More informations @catherincochard

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