Details
A faceted gem cut of smoky-yellow Libyan Desert Glass. Modern cutting.
20 x 26 x 26 mm. (0.75 x 1 x 1 in.)

12.1 g. (60 carats)

Libyan Desert Glass is a natural glass formed as the result of terrestrial sand melting and splashing during an enormously energetic asteroid impact on Earth ~28.5 million years ago. Closely related to tektites, such silicate glass formations had long been considered a mystery with some researchers believing they originated from the Moon. More recently, scientists have concluded these materials (whose name comes from the Greek tektos, meaning “melted”) formed as a result of asteroid impacts with Earth. The extraordinary heat that resulted from such collisions liquefied terrestrial particles that were blasted into the atmosphere, and quenched into glass before landing.

Tektites are named after the locality in which they are found, hence: Australites, Indochinites, Phillipinites, Moldavites, etc. The higher the silica content of terrestrial impact glass, the lighter the color, and so Libyan Desert Glass—which is derived from molten quartz sand and is 98% silica—is sunny yellow; moldavites from the Czech Republic—with 80% silica—cover a range of greens. Now offered is a translucent example of Libyan Desert Glass found in the sands of the Sahara. Libyan Desert Glass was used to make primitive tools during the Pleistocene epoch and was used as jewelry in the Pharaonic Period with examples discovered in tomb of Tutankhamun.

Christie's would like to thank Dr. Alan E. Rubin at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles for his assistance in preparing this cataloguenote.


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