In less than two weeks, two northern Nevadans are hoping a rock found in some nearby mountains will bring them some Silver State-style magic.
The question is whether this is an ordinary rock or a meteorite that traveled through space, crashed on Earth and sat undisturbed until a gold hunter came across it and brought it to Sparks to sell put it on the market.
“We have a lot of people come in and touch it,” said Samantha Brockelsby, owner of Auctions Buy Sammy on Rock Boulevard in Sparks, where the rock will be sold on Feb. 11 to the highest bidder. “They want to rub it for luck. The lucky rock, they call it.”
About two years ago, Reno resident Mark Horton was searching for gold in the mountains outside Gardnerville when he came across the rock. He thought nothing of it until he tried to move it and the weight made him curious. With help from his father, Horton hauled the rock home and there it sat until about three months ago when his own son prodded him to investigate it.
He conducted a few tests based on some Internet research and found it met some criteria to be extraterrestrial. One of the tests said that upon polishing it a meteorite would be shiny like chrome on a car. Another test said if the surface were ground down the inside would be reddish brown. Yet another test said the rock would be magnetic.
Horton’s rock passed all three.
That’s when he took it to some experts at the College of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he was told the piece appeared to be from space.
Horton’s next stop was Brockelsby’s auction house last week. She also was surprised by the rock’s immense weight and unusual appearance. She agreed to sell it and has been working diligently to prove the rock’s origin. Her hope is to have a rock that will sell for tens of thousands of dollars instead of just a few hundred or less.
“If I can find someone who say can, ‘Yeah, this is a meteorite,’ then there is a significant difference (in value),” Brockelsby said, adding, “I’m a total believer that it is (a meteorite).”
Brockelsy has been contacting experts around the county to try and verify the rock’s unearthly origins. Each test, however, would require cutting or chipping off pieces of the rock.
In the course of her research, she has found meteorites selling for as much as $90,000, or as much as $5 per gram.
Nevada resident Ralph Sunny Clary is selling a meteorite for $75 per gram. With a weight of 64 grams, that’s a $4,800 price tag. Clary’s meteorite is a fragment of a larger piece that broke apart and landed in Mifflin, Wis. The larger piece was 206 grams, according to Clary’s website, www.nevadameteorites.com. Clary’s website claims he has traveled around the United States recovering other meteorites.
The University of New Mexico’s website lists numerous characteristics of meteorites. First, it will have a fusion crust, which means the outside partially melts and then resolidifies after entering the atmosphere, creating a smooth surface. Meteorites usually are composed of an iron-nickel alloy and have 1.5 to 3.5 times the density of earth rocks of the same size. They are magnetic and characterized by chondrules, or a bumpy surface if it is cut open, and by regmaglypts, or pitting on the surface from being hit by particles on the way down.
According to the International Society for Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 690 meteorites have fallen to Earth since 1900, an average of 6.3 worldwide per year. Ninety-eight of those have been found in the United States, averaging one per year.
There have been 53 meteorites found in Nevada, most of which could have fallen long before 1900.
Since putting the rock out for viewing by potential buyers, Brockelsby said several people have dismissed the meteorite claim, saying it is nothing more than a magnetite, which occurs naturally all over the world, often in large quantities in beach sand.
Whether Horton’s rock turns out to be from another world or just otherworldly, it certainly is an oddity.
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, in walks a 90-pound meteorite, or possible meteorite,” Brockelsby said.
To view the rock, visit www.weathervaneauctions.com.