Rare aesthetic meteorites set for auction block

The art world's interest in meteorites has skyrocketed, with collectors and curators buying up the outer-space rocks for display in museums, galleries, or on a cocktail table at home.

Next week, meteorite hunters will get a chance to bid for some of the world's most coveted extraterrestrial rocks when they go on sale at Bonhams' New York natural history auction.

Among the highlights are a small slice of the 15.5-ton Williamette, the crown jewel of meteorites on display at the American Museum of Natural History, and a 355-pound (160-kilogram) iron meteorite from Campo Del Cielo, "Valley of the Sky," Argentina.

These rare space sculptures have captured the imagination of the public over the last decade, not only for their scientific richness but for their natural beauty.

"Beyond matters of the soul, the inspiration for most art is in nature," said Darryl Pitt, primary owner and curator of the Macovich Collection, considered the finest aesthetic meteorites in the world. "For me, aesthetic meteorites are the closest approximate to being able to behold that which is in the heavens."

Among the meteorites at Tuesday's auction all from the Macovich Collection the small beveled slice of Williamette is expected to sell for $8,000 (Ђ6,565) to $10,000 (Ђ8,210). The Williamette is North America's largest meteorite, deposited by the last ice age and discovered in Oregon 1902.

The large "Valley of the Sky" iron meteorite, measuring 30 by 15 by 14.5 inches (76 by 38 by 36.8 centimeters), looks nearly the same as it did when it burned through the earth's atmosphere thousands of years ago. Estimated at $40,000 (Ђ32,845) to $50,000, (Ђ41,055) its surface "thumb prints" are evidence that it "tumbled, spun and corkscrewed in the minutes prior to impact," Bonhams said.

The auction house also is offering a lunar specimen of the only off-white fallen chunk of the moon available to the public. Its presale estimate is $5,000 (Ђ4,105) to $6,000 (Ђ4,925).

"When a piece of the moon falls here on its own, clients are always interested in acquiring it," said Claudia Florian, a gemologist and curator at Bonhams.

NASA possesses many pieces of lunar rock brought back from missions, but they are not available for private purchase, reports AP.

O.Ch.