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Roger Weller, geology instructor

by Zachary Brown
Physical Geology
Fall 2007


          Approximately 15 million years ago, a meteorite smashed into western Bavaria, Germany, forming a large circular depression known as the Nördlinger Ries (“Nördlinger”).  Along with this crater, the meteorite created an extremely rare object, an object that appears to have never been created before or after the meteorite’s impact.  What makes this event and the object it created so important today?

          For years scientists believed that the Ries crater was formed by volcanic activity until two American scientists proved that the depression could not have been formed by anything other than a meteorite impact (“Nördlinger”).  Shocked quartz found in the depression could have only been created by shock pressures associated with meteorite impacts.  The two scientists proved to be correct as people began to find olive-green, glassy substances that later came to be known as moldavite.

Moldavite from Besednice, Bohemia

          Upon impact with the planet, the meteorite melted together with the earth and splashed throughout the air, cooling in the process and creating the moldavite tektites (“Moldavite”). The impact of the crater was so massive that the moldavite that was thrown through the air landed in the Czech Republic and Austria as well as Germany.  Most of the tektite landed in central Bohemia, traversed by the river Vltava (Moldau in German), thus giving moldavite its name (“Moldavite”).  Recent computer modeling of the impact suggests that the meteorite was probably 1.5 km in diameter and had an impact velocity of 20 km/s, the resulting explosion containing the power of 1.8 million Hiroshima bombs (“Nördlinger”).

          Tektites are generally brown, grey, or black colored. Moldavite is the only tektite in the world that’s green.  Upon first glance, moldavite appears to be of a dark olive-green complexion.  When cast in sunlight, moldavite can reveal its translucency, changing color to a light green to light blue-green hue. The most valuable and sought-after moldavites are the transparent kind (“Moldavite”).  The engravings throughout the surface of the moldavites were formed by naturally occurring acids and weathering conditions (“Moldavite”). Moldavite has a hardness of 6-7 on Moh’s scale and has a density of 2.8 grams per cubic centimeter (“Geoscience”).

          For years people have harvested moldavite and sold it to support themselves and their families.  Moldavite is becoming increasingly rare.  The Czech Republic has been the central mining area of moldavite for decades, but new restrictions are making it all but impossible to obtain new moldavite specimens. “The clay pits at Besednice, Czech Republic, have been closed for ten years.  Moldavite hunters burrowing beneath the 10-foot banks were encroaching on protected forestland (and were getting themselves killed). The area is now behind patrolled chain-link fencing and reportedly is slated to become a national park” (“Besednice”).  Supply and demand dictates the price of any item valued by a consumer.  As moldavite becomes harder and harder to find, its selling price will increase exponentially.


          With moldavite becoming increasingly scarce, people are attempting to take advantage of others when selling products online. “During some Auctions on Ebay in 2005-2006 there are unscrupulous dealers selling substitutes for Moldavite (and calling it Moldavite or African Moldavite). This is not Moldavite, it is a fraud.  Some of the stones that were sold as Moldavite are Obsidian or river tumbled Glass from Africa” (“Moldavite”). The only moldavite deposits in the world, contrary to many false claims on the internet, are in the Czech Republic and Moravia (“Moldavite”), with the extremely rare and occasional find of secluded moldavite in Germany and Austria.


          Some people believe that moldavite contains vast metaphysical properties, improving upon the lives of those who come into contact with it or obtain it for themselves.  Citing theological myth, those who believe that moldavite enhances “one’s inner growth and evolution” (“Metaphysical”) point to the “legendary Stone of the Holy Grail, an ‘emerald’ said to have fallen from the sky, and a talisman for the healing of the Earth” (“Metaphysical”).  For thousands of years, humanity has treated certain minerals, gems, and crystals with the utmost respect, attaching their various meanings to myths, legends, royalty, and symbols of status. Moldavite is clearly no exception.


          A rare commodity, moldavite was created by random chance 15 million years ago. Whether used for economic purposes, for spiritual well-being, or for admiration as someone’s personal keepsake, moldavite will continue to prosper as one of the world’s most beloved and sought-after objects.


Works Cited

“Besednice Moldavites.” 2007. 26 November 2007.
“Geoscience.” 2004. 29 November 2007.
“Metaphysical Properties of Moldavite.” 2007.

29 November 2007.
“Moldavite Facts.” 2006. 26 November 2007.
“Nördlinger Ries.” Wikipedia. 26 November 2007. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

            26 November 2007.