As the name indicates, a meteorite knife is made using a meteorite, a stone from space fallen on Earth after flying through the cosmos. Interestingly, a meteorite has more chronicles than just flying in space. Although used for making distinct modern jewelry, its use dates back to ancient days.
This rare extraterrestrial iron, in the past, was utilized for making knives and tools. It was praised for its origin by several people, believing it to be a gift from God. The ancient civilizations such as those in Rome, Egypt, Greece, and China were mesmerized by the falling bodies from the sky and got captivated under their spell.
Thus, it was also used in making items for different rituals and ceremonies. One of these items was a meteorite knife made using an iron meteorite.
It has been found that an iron meteorite has been used to design the meteorite knife excavated from the famous tomb of King Tutankhamen. Interesting, right? So, let’s explore a knife made using a meteorite in detail.
Overview of Meteorites
Before exploring meteorite knives in detail, it is worth comprehending a meteorite. Well, it is a solid body of interstellar origin that has reached the surface of Earth after passing via the atmosphere. Structurally, it is composed chiefly of an icon nickel alloy or silicate minerals.
As most of them have multi-grained mineral masses, meteorites belong to the category of rocks. This is irrespective of the chemical composition. Keeping a few exceptions aside, meteorites are as old as the solar system due to which they are the oldest materials for humans.
Most meteorites are from the asteroid band between Mars and Jupiter and some from the moon and Mars. Upon falling on the Earth, either biomass gathers atop them or they go deep into the surface. Wind and weather also quickly alter the surface of these rocks, making it tough for a naïve person to detect them.
In some cases, only a professional can identify whether a found piece of rock is a meteorite or not. On the Earth, there are a few places where meteorites are found more frequently than sites of fall.
Although oxidation can quickly weather them away, meteorites can stay preserved for several thousands of years in dry zones such as the African deserts and even more than a million years, at times, in Antarctica. Meteorites tend to grab instant attention due to their characteristic black fusion crust.
The company, Space Rocks Eger, along with the owner Uwe Eger actively looks for meteorites. Their rocks are processed by Markus Balbach, an esteemed German Damascus forger, to form meteorite Damascus steel for knives.
Historical Significance of Meteorite Knives
The biggest evidence of meteorite’s use is in Namibia. After the Gibeon meteorite was crushed into pieces across hundreds of kilometers, the San people used the contained iron to make tools such as spears and meteorite knives. Today, these pieces are in motion outside South Africa or in a city center’s exhibition in the capital city, Windhoek.
The oldest, and the latest discovery, indicating the use of meteorites in making tools is the dagger found in the King Tutankhamen (Tut) tomb that is more than 3,300 years old now. The tomb had a knife made of metal having a high amount of iron, cobalt, and nickel, which is also present in a meteorite.
The ancient Egyptians admired meteorites by using them in ornaments made for rituals and ceremonies. For them, it was ‘iron falling from the sky’. This was the time when iron smelting and production was rare.
Thus, considering this way in which they worshiped the rare iron, it is sensible to conclude that the teenaged king was entombed with a meteorite knife. Interestingly, Tut was not the first Egyptian to possess a sky knife in his armory.
It is a fact that iron is not that commonly spotted material on Earth. Its ore must be mined and processed. Moreover, the smelting technology had taken centuries to surface. However, meteorites contain blocks of readymade iron due to which several historic meteorite knives have been made even before the Tut’s regime.
Meteorite iron was also reserved for gifts and artistic items. Due to the rarity of iron, the metal was considered more valuable as well as royal than gold.
The non-rusted iron blade of the Tut’s knife has perplexed the modern scientists, as such metalwork was very rare in those days in Egypt. The researcher from Italy and Egypt employed a non-invasive X-ray method to check the composition of the iron, as per the Meteoritics and Planetary Science journal.
The high presence of nickel in it indicated the blade to be made using meteoritic iron. The researchers found that the presence of nickel, cobalt, and iron strongly indicates an extraterrestrial origin.
The composition was compared to the known meteorites found within a few thousand miles away and round Egypt’s Red Sea coast and the result was similar. The high manufacturing blade quality as compared to other simple meteoritic iron objects, reveals a noteworthy mastery of iron used in the Tut’s regime.
Keeping this ornate in his tomb is not surprising, as meteorites, especially iron meteorites are rare due to which items made using this material was considered ornate or royal. Fragments of meteorite knives were found in remote sites such as at Ur in Mesopotamia. A collection of beads belonging to the era of early Egypt was also made using meteorite iron.
Due to the high content of nickel, meteorite iron is very heavy, dense, and challenging to work with. A cutting effort through a meteorite of five inches, in ancient days, consumed 10 hours. The ancient people were able to resolve this issue by embedding iron flakes into a blade composed using another material like wood.
Perhaps inspired by the metal’s hardness and density in comparison with the planet’s iron, folklores of meteorite blades with enchanting cutting ability proliferate. According to an Egyptian legend, a thunderbolt blade could cut a horse and rider into two. Thunderbolt seems to be a probable paraphrase of a meteor.
Even the soldiers of Spain report Aztec warriors handling iron weapons although the latter did not know anything about the metalworking technology. They pointed to the sky to refer to the metal’s source.
Further, several famous swords such as those of Attila the Hun’s, King Arthur’s, and Emperor Jahangir are known to have been forged from meteorites.
Why Meteorite for Knives?
From a practical viewpoint, meteoric iron is considered better than early iron and steel as well as bronze although not as good as the modern crucible steel in terms of strength, the ability to endure deformation.
Still, a knife made using this iron could be significantly tough if made properly to build a knife that could sustain against a modern steel blade. A meteorite was a great material during the bronze age because of the presence of readymade made iron.
However, it is truly not super steel. The alloys such as kamacite and taenite found in iron-nickel meteorites are rich in characteristics due to which the ancient people chose them as blade making materials.
The hardness of meteor crystals is equivalent to the finest Damascus steel blades, near to the premium blades, and considerably higher than cast or wrought iron. Seemingly, a quenching and tempering process may be there to raise the raw crystals’ hardness by two or three.
The toughness of meteorite iron is greater than the products of iron used daily although not as great as the best modern steels. It is equivalent to iron swords designed using a technology of the 10th century.
Overall, if hardened well, meteorite makes a strong blade that is harder than any option available until the 19th century. Meteors have a varying amount of iron. Many of them are just rocks with a maximum of 6% iron-nickel alloy. The rest are purer.
In the case of Tut’s knife, the blade’s high nickel content effectively made it similar to stainless steel due to which it remained rust-free and intact even today. However, other blades made using less homogeneous meteors tend to rust swifter than regular steel, the symptoms of which are inclusions and cracks.
Thus, some meteors are rust-resistant. Visually, when coated with steel, the high nickel content gives rise to some striking patterns. This is evident in the Kris swords and knives of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Overall, meteoric knives and swords are not stronger or sharper than modern steel knives. However, they are rare, highly distinct, and cool.
Types of Meteorite Knives and Manufacturers
As per their composition, meteorites are of three types namely, stony featuring silicate minerals, stony-iron having the same amounts of iron and iron silicate crystals, and iron meteorites featuring only iron.
Meteorite knives are made using these three types of meteorites. This results in three types of meteorite knives too. Of all, pure fragments of stony-iron meteorites namely, pallasite and mesosiderite are in use by well-established brands such as Perceval to make knives.
These fragments are extracted from deposits namely, Muonionalusta found close to the Swedish polar area in the early 20th century and Seymchan found in Russia after the mid-20th century. The Seymchan meteorite belongs to the pallasites category. It is unique due to its strong character and the dendritic patterns of its crystals.
Pallasites have big, striking olive-green crystals or olivine, a type of magnesium-iron silicate present in the metal. Olivine can be single or as a cluster. Pallasites are believed to be somewhere between a metal core and the silicate or olivine-rich mantle surrounding it. Thus, pallasites are the rarest metallic meteorites.
However, some scientists believe that only a few olivine meteorites exist in the asteroid band in the space. Apart from Seymchan, Imilac from Chile and Brenham from Kansas are other popular pallasites used in making knives.
On the other hand, the Muonionalusta meteorite belongs to the octahedral siderite category. It is noticeable through its crystals’ fine nature and its strips’ geometric shape that is seen typically in ferrous meteorites.
This structure becomes noticeable when heated at high temperatures in acid. In short, Muonionalusta shows a stunning Widmanstätten etch pattern after processing, resulting in fashionable blades.
Muonionalusta’s fall site is in the north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden. Meteorites here are so ancient that their fall date is before an ice age. Long-disappeared rivers of ice transmitted them but left the heavy irons as they melted, blending them with the debris of rocks. Been retained by retreating ice, the sites and depths at which these meteorites are buried are arbitrary. Thus, it is not easy to look for them.
Perceval is known for its Muonionalusta knives whose handles are made using pallasite and mesosiderite meteorites. They have launched folding knives that feature a Damascus steel blade to accentuate the meteor’s extraordinary texture. Aerolite is another brand known for its Muonionalusta knives having blades reflecting beautiful, shining patterns.
You can find their array of knives with blade handles made of meteorites on their website.
While Perceval is admired for its knife handles made using meteorites, there are knives whose blades are hand-made using meteorites.
One of them comes from the expert bladesmith, Michael Miller.
Its Damascus blade has materials obtained from Gibeon (Namibia), Chinga, and Henbury meteorites, while its wooden handle has etched Brenham meteorite. The blade is forged via the san-mai technique wherein a high-carbon steel material is inserted between the bars of meteoritic Damascus to make the cutting edge.
Another meteorite knife comes from the expert Japanese swordsmith Yoshindo Yoshiwara who has forged a katana by using the fragments of the Gibeon meteorite. The katana is called Tentetsutou.
All these knives are fully functional, not just showpieces.
Different types of meteorites are used to make knives. Meteorite knives have a rich history. They are better than the knives made using bronze and early iron in terms of durability as well as strength. However, they cannot supersede modern steel knives in terms of strength. You can buy them online from different brands such as Perceval and Aerolite.