Authenticity of Meteorites

Special considerations regarding authenticity of meteorites

No organization, including the GMA, can ever guarantee the authenticity of a specimen.

The GMA can and does provide a structure, rules and guidelines that encourages fair, transparent, and ethical practices to maximize a buyer’s confidence in the transaction and in the authenticity of the specimen.

Authenticity is a critical part of collecting meteorites and of ensuring that their value is maintained over time. Traceable authenticity and provenance lowers the risks inherent to the market and collecting. Maintaining proper documentation such as, but not limited to, a specimen’s certificate of authenticity and chain of custody is crucial, because without it, a meteorite can be indistinguishable from another similar meteorite and thus lose significant value.

Misconceptions About Authenticity

A common misconception especially among new collectors is that scientific analysis can be used to determine the authenticity of any meteorite. Though certain meteorites can be singularly identified based on unique features and composition, that is not the case with most meteorites. Since many meteorites originate from the same parent body, it is often impossible to differentiate between two fresh falls with the same classifications even when their fall dates are separated by decades or even centuries. For example, dishonest sellers have in the past sold the LL6 ordinary chondrite Saint-Severin as the similarly classified Ensisheim because they are visually indistinguishable. Though both meteorites are desirable, the selling price per gram of an authentic specimen of Ensisheim is significantly higher than that of St. Severin. A meteoriticist, even with the best analysis, may not be able to distinguish between two meteorites of the same type. As with the case above, they are likely to say that the meteorite is an LL6, but not be able to say whether it is St. Severin or Ensisheim.

Even in the case of a meteorite that may be uniquely identified, most researchers and scientist will refuse to confirm authenticity due to legal restrictions placed on them by their institutions, based on their workload, or any number of other reasons. However, the original classifying scientist may confirm a pairing based on lab results (see Rules Regarding Pairings).

For collectors of micros, the due diligence required to vet a seller is significantly higher as specimens are often too small to place in the context of a larger specimen and thus even more difficult to guarantee their authenticity.

Summary

In summary, the GMA cannot control the behavior of any individual member. Buying specimens from GMA members does offer a higher degree of confidence in the authenticity of specimen, but the GMA itself does not and cannot offer any absolute guarantee of authenticity.