Can Meteorites be Viewing Stones?


This landscape stone, a meteorite from the Santiago del Estero province in Argentina, is 15 x 6.2 x 7.5 cm and is displayed in a painted softwood base.


The interpretation of the definition of a viewing stone varies between stone collectors. Certain types of stones are sometimes excluded from exhibition due to their origin. Meteorites and petrified woods are examples of stones that can be seen in some exhibitions but excluded from others, even if we use the definition that a viewing stone evokes feeling and represents something greater than the stone itself. In this article, we examine the question of whether meteorites should be acceptable or not.

A meteorite should be subject to the same evaluation criteria as stones found on Earth. That is, it should be examined for its form (shape), color, texture, composition, and overall impression. Thus, if a meteorite has multiple acceptable features like other stones used in stone appreciation cultures, then it should be considered as meeting the requirements. It may convey the feeling of a scenic landscape, figure, structure or abstract stone. Most meteorites do not have an acceptable form for a viewing stone even though they may have an acceptable color and surface texture.

To exclude a meteorite because it originated from outer space is naïve and simplistic? That position ignores the fact that Earth has been impacted with thousands of meteorites over its long history. When these space rocks enter our atmosphere and become buried beneath the Earth’s surface, they become part of the geological makeup of this planet. At that point, they become part of our natural history. Meteorites are composed of the same minerals as rocks found on the outer crust of the Earth. Some meteorites are composed of silicate materials, while others are composed mainly of metallic iron and nickel. These stones can be heavier than comparable-sized and ubiquitous sedimentary, metamorphic, or igneous stones on Earth. There are no exotic minerals found in meteorites that are not found in native stones.

There is a historical precedent for recognizing meteorites as viewing stones. Meteorites have been included in important stone catalogs  beginning with the illustrated book Shuyuan Shipu published in 1613 and continuing to the comprehensive China Stone Catalog published in 2016. The Suyuan Shipu was written by Lin Youlin in 1613 described and illustrated over 100 diverse types of stones including a Song dynasty meteorite. Historically, Chinese stone connoisseurs collected and recognized both meteorites and petrified wood as part of the stones they appreciated.

A meteorite can be a viewing stone provided it meets the evaluation criteria, and that it is displayed in a manner for aesthetic appreciation. Also, it must elicit feelings of something greater than just the stone—it is must be suggestive or evocative, not just a mineral specimen.


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