GIA Helps Science Channel

Science Channel treasure hunters Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold travel the world searching for meteorites, including fragments of one particular variety that needed the expert analysis of gemologists at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

The fragments in question, according to John Koivula, GIA’s chief gemologist and an expert on extraterrestrial and terrestrial gems, are from a rare stony-iron meteorite known as a pallasite, which contains glassy-looking crystalline fragments of transparent to translucent olivine. These were captured as inclusions in a massive network of two solid elemental metals, nickel and iron. 

Koivula helps to educate television viewers about these meteorites in a new one-hour Science Channel special dubbed “Meteorite Men,” premiering Sunday, May 10 at 9 p.m EST, a program that takes viewers on a search for extraterrestrial treasures, revealing some lost pieces of the universe.

“Since olivine occurs much more commonly on Earth and is known by its gem name, peridot, it is both commercially and scientifically important to be able to separate terrestrial olivine found on Earth from extraterrestrial olivine found in pallasitic meteorites,” Koivula said in a release. “In fact, peridot or olivine extracted from pallasitic meteorites is the only matter from outer space that can, and has been, cut and used as a gem—and knowing the difference is where GIA gets involved.”

Koivula discovered the microscopic means to separate extraterrestrial and terrestrial peridots, and his published research on the subject led meteorite hunters Arnold and Notkin to GIA. On “Meteorite Men,” Koivula explains how a gemological microscope can be used to make this separation. In doing so, he helps illuminate the other-worldly-origin of these meteorites, demonstrating why they, and the olivine extracted from them, are so rare and valuable.

“This form of olivine or peridot is the only extraterrestrial gem we know that is suitable for use in jewelry,” said Koivula, holding up a polished section of pallasitic olivine for the camera. “It has traveled through the universe from a place and time that will never be precisely known. If you are wearing a peridot fashioned from an olivine fragment extracted from a pallasitic meteorite, that gem could very well be a remnant of the deep interior of some planet or planetoid that no longer exists.”

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GIA’s John Koivula speaks to crew from Science Channel.
Photo courtesy of Steven Ty/Science Channel

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