Collectors special: crystals, meteorites, and fossils

Spectacular crystals, meteorites and fossils could make perfect ornaments for your home, bringing something extraordinary and unique to your interior. Whether you want to invest in a single showstopper or like the idea of embarking on a new hobby as a collector, these natural items will always look timeless.

Transform the energy of your home and give a room a sense of drama by displaying an ancient and naturally formed ornament, such as a crystal, meteorite or fossil. With a dedicated live auction held once a year at Christies Auction House, sales of these natural relics have been known to fetch exceptional figures, with buyers eager to invest in these astoundingly wonderful treasures. In May 2019, a large Muonionalusta Meteorite Cube sold for £25,000, a significant Quartz point from Brazil sold for £8,750 and a large triceratops horn fossil sold for £20,000. 

Here at Westbury we are big fans of natural materials and ornaments, and visitors to our Essex Showroom may have spotted some beautiful, sparkling geodes arranged around the office. Geology is a fascinating subject, but with so many concepts to learn about it can be a little overwhelming. If you are thinking of incorporating these magnificent objects into your own home and are not sure where to start, we explore the basics… 

Charming Crystals

The scientific definition of a crystal is a solid substance that has an orderly, repeating arrangement of atoms and molecules. Rock salt, for example, is classed as a crystal. In this article, we are referring to crystals such as Rose Quartz, Amethyst, Agate and Tiger Eye. Crystals which are considered to be valuable and precious are referred to as gemstones, like Emeralds, Rubies and Sapphires, which are usually cut, polished and set into jewellery. While a gem can be a crystal, a crystal cannot be a gem. 

Crystals are a great item to collect because of their stunning beauty, fascinating combination of minerals and unique formations that occur deep under the ground. They are used to make jewellery and ornaments, but many also believe that they have healing energies and use them for various spiritual practices. Charge your crystals under the full moon every month to feel the benefits. 

What is it that makes a crystal more valuable than another? Size is a significant factor, with larger clusters and geodes being more prized than the smaller ones. Larger items are harder to dig up, clean and transport, meaning more time and money is needed to bring them to market. The size and condition of the crystals themselves also say a lot about the way they were formed. Are there rare formations, additional minerals or unusual shapes that make the piece more interesting? The colour of the crystals also plays a part, with darker and more vibrant shades being rarer than the lighter coloured ones. 

Mighty Meteorites

Looking through a telescope at the light from a distant galaxy that took millions of years to reach your eye is a truly incredible experience. Anyone who loves cosmology, planetary exploration and astrophotography are likely to be enthralled by the idea of owning their very own space rock from distant solar systems. 

Over billions of years, collisions between asteroids send loose pieces of rock into orbit,  resulting in some of them ending up on our planet. Every year more than 40,000 tonnes of space debris falls to the earth’s atmosphere. These cast-off bits and pieces mostly burn up in our atmosphere, but many remnants still hit the ground. Meteorites can be from the oldest and most ancient parts of our solar system and range from the commonly found, such as the Canyon Diabo meteorites, to the rare and sensational, like those from the Moon and Mars. 

Meteorites are organised into three main categories; stones (95% of meteorites fall into this group), irons (4%) and stony-irons (1%). Iron meteorites are likely to have striking surface characteristics, formed by the elements into fascinating shapes and often described as “aesthetic” or “sculptural” pieces.

Scientists use advanced infrared telescopes and radars to see which minerals exist in the structure of a meteorite. The meteorites are then assigned a spectral classification that tells the buyer about their composition and where they landed. Meteorites that once belonged to a prominent researcher or collector are highly attractive in the market, as are specimens with aged and vintage identification labels or hand-painted collection numbers.

There is a big community of dealers, meteor hunters and collectors who are happy to share advice. It’s normal to be concerned about authenticity when it comes to purchasing meteorites, so only trade with reputable dealers who are well-established and know their field. You should be able to get paperwork with each piece you are buying. Most collectors will have an area of expertise, but it is a vast subject with a range of niche specialities so it will take a while to see which areas you want to explore. Try buying a few initial samples, study them, and over time you should discover your personal areas of interest. 

Fantastic Fossils

These beautiful relics give us a snapshot of something that existed in a bygone age, hidden under the earth, preserved by minerals and turned into stone over millions of years. Miraculously, the layer of rock eventually erodes through excavations or the natural elements, and the fossils are discovered. They are utterly remarkable, and you can find everything from gigantic fossilised skeletons to leaves and footprints. These natural works of art can become a real showstopper in your home, capturing the imagination of anyone who sees it. Everyone will want to know how you came across a fossilised dinosaur footprint! 

Fossils become more valuable the rarer they become. Where Ammonites tend to be fairly common, they are relatively easy to purchase and have a lower value. Delicate things that rarely turn into fossils such as feathers and scales are considered extraordinary. Similar to crystals, the larger the relic, the more expensive it is, as they are more likely to break in the rock bed and are harder to come across. The other element to keep your eye out for is the level of detail a fossil might have. Fossils with fine spines or delicate patterns require more care and effort to dig up, making it more precious if whole and in one piece. 


How to store your geology collection

If you’re interested in collecting geological items, you will find that over time you can quickly build a broad and impressive range of fascinating pieces. If this is the case, you might want to consider storing your treasures in a systematic order to prevent forgetting and losing track of all your finds. Each item you find is precious and irreplaceable. We owe it to those objects to look after them as best we can, so they last as long as possible. Never throw them away, always offer them to a museum who can share them with others who can enjoy them. Correctly storing them will help to protect your items from harm or deterioration, and help you save space. 

Most collectors store their treasures in a cabinet with either cases or drawers. This makes it easy for you to split your collection into specific categories. For example, store ammonites on one shelf and lunar meteorites on another. 

Wrapping items in bubble wrap or tissue paper will help to keep them separate, stop them from rubbing together and protect from dust. Put each wrapped object into a different case, keeping a careful record of its date and origins. 

These records make the difference between your items being decorative trinkets, and a real geology collection. These rocks and stones have been around for hundreds of thousands of years and will outlast your own life too. When it is time to pass your collection on to someone else or a museum, your accompanying records will give them meaning and make all the difference to those who might not understand what they are observing. 

Searching for your own

Searching for collectable treasures is a fascinating and highly enjoyable experience, and anyone can get involved with a little knowhow. Firstly, research your local area to see if there are any known spots you can target. Your expedition will be rather fruitless and disappointing if you spend your time searching in a place where you are unlikely to find anything. 

If you are on the lookout for geodes, you will need to find areas where lava was once present, as the crystals form in air pockets that are trapped within the lava as it cools. The beach is a fantastic place to search for fossils, as rocks often fall from eroding cliffs. Some can split open by the sea, revealing the ancient shapes and creatures inside. For this reason, it is best to go fossil hunting after a storm when you might come across some newly split finds.

Ensure you have everything you need by kitting yourself out with the right equipment. If there is one thing you have to take, a heavy hammer will be invaluable for prying loose clods of earth or giving a rock a good whack along its natural bedding plains to reveal its inner secrets. 

For anyone interested in fully embracing their new hobby at home, you could invest in a tumbler that smooths pebbles and helps to reveal their true colours, and a diamond-tipped saw is essential for slicing stones and small rocks. You will be surprised at some of the beautiful and intricate patterns revealed when a stone is correctly cut, even sedimentary sandstones.