I have always been fascinated by geology and gemology, ever since I first saw a glint of mica in the dirt as a young eight-year-old. Of course, I love pretty things, which is probably why I create jewelry in the first place. But my attraction is the complexion of a stone, its nuances, its rarity – plus the adventurous whiff of a hunt and the pirate-like thrill of discovery. Like a moth to a flame, anytime something involves rocks, I’m in.
When I was on the road this past summer, I stopped in Vermont to say hello to some friends – and spotted a few large fossil-containing boulders on their deck. Intriguing! As it turns out, their house was on the edge of Lake Champlain, down the coast from the Goodsell Ridge Fossil Preserve. A national landmark, this ancient area called Chazy Reef exposes 480-million-year-old fossils from what was once a tropical marine environment. The site is recognized as the oldest known diverse fossil reef in the world and contains substantial biological diversity that demonstrates faunal succession. Well, when I learned you could possibly find fossils, obviously I was going to start flipping every rock in my path! So, while people went swimming, I hit the rock-strewn shore. Surprisingly, I found one with a pretty good impression of an archaic gastropod – beginners luck?!
All those decades later from discovering my first silvery piece of mica, I’m still enthralled with exploration and elated with encounters of new material, specimens or the uncovering of new mines and mineral deposits. Which is why I’m really psyched to be following the NASA Mars exploration. It’s exciting to watch and see what might turn up on a new planet!
Including… gemstones! As early as 1997, green olivine (aka the gemstone peridot when found in transparent form) was first seen by the Mars Global Surveyor “MGS” and confirmed by a Mars landing in 2003. Carried to the surface on volcanic hotspots, these stones are an indication of volcanic activity on Mars. Five years later, opal was discovered. Opal, a non-crystalline form of silica, has a high water content and on Earth, opals have often preserved fossils and other signs of biology. This find suggests that liquid water played an important role in shaping the planet's surface and possibly hosting life.
Just this year, NASA has launched a spacecraft, Perseverance, that can drill core samples and store them – attempting to become the first mission to drill and collect a suite of intact rock cores from the Martian surface. These samples would then be retrieved by other spacecraft and brought back to earth as soon as 2031 (fingers crossed!). Collecting volcanic rock from Mars would allow geologists to study clues to Mars’ past, date its formation precisely, and thus pin down a chronology for much of Mars’s geological history.
The whole exploration is a mystery, a puzzle, an unveiling. Minerals are time capsules, little fingerprints of what the environment was like at the time they formed. While there are probably no dinosaur fossils on Mars, it is motivating me to keep searching and creating from what I find on this planet. And maybe one day, you’ll find gemstones from far off planets set in my jewelry.
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