Libyan Desert Glass, also known as Libyan Gold Tektite or Libyan Desert Tektite is found in a remote region of the Sahara Desert, in the Great Sand Sea of western Egypt near the border of Libya. These golden gems are scattered over thousands of kilometers, between the Sahara's shifting sand dunes.
One could say this natural glassy gem is the lost stone of the Sahara, it was used for jewelry and carvings in ancient Egypt. But it wasn't until 1932 that it was rediscovered by an Egyptian Desert survey expedition sent from Cairo to study unexplored regions of the Great Sand Sea, north of the Gilf Kebir plateau. On December 29th 1932, members from the expedition discovered a pale yellow material with glassy characteristics, it became known as Libyan Desert Glass.
The Libyan Desert Glass Strewn Fields
No one knows how much Libyan Desert Glass is in the desert, estimates range from hundreds to thousands of tons. Finding the glass isn't a problem but getting to the location of the glass (the strewn field) is the challenge. The Libyan Desert Glass strewn field is in one of the most remote places on Earth. The shortcut involves three days of driving over sand dunes, a challenging task in itself, even with the best 4 wheel drive vehicles. The region is desolate and inhabitable, the days are scorching and the nights are freezing.
If you were to imagine walking through the Libyan Desert Glass strewn field, finding the glass would be similar walking the beach and looking for sea glass. Most of the pieces lying on the surface of the sand are small with smooth rounded edges and a shiny finish or a frosted glowy appearance similar to sea glass. These surface pieces have been sandblasted and polished naturally by the sand and wind. Buried pieces are generally rougher, pitted, dull and etched by water.
Due to safety concerns, travel to the region has been limited or restricted, making it difficult to collect Libyan Desert Glass and bring it out of the country. Regardless of how much glass may exist in the desert, very little is actually available. Even here in Tucson at the largest gem shows in the world, Libyan Desert Glass is hard to find. Our Moroccan friends in the gem, mineral and fossil import/export business say it's too risky to travel in the area, at the time of writing this blog post. Prices of Libyan Desert Glass are expected to rise due to supply and demand.
What is Libyan Desert Glass?
For most of history the origin of Libyan Desert Glass was unknown. Researchers studying the gem believe it is indeed from a meteoric origin, classified as Tektites, a rare natural glass formed during a meteorite impact. The exact origin and celestial event that created Libyan Desert Glass is unclear, researchers have several theories but most agree it's a variety of Tektite unlike any other, Libyan Desert Glass is nearly pure, made of 98% silica, there's no other natural glass like it on the planet.
Libyan Desert Glass formed about 29 million years ago when a celestial event impacted Earth in the region. During the event, extreme pressure and heat exceeding 1,800 degrees Celsius caused minerals to rapidly melt and cool, creating fragments of natural glass.
How Did Libyan Desert Glass Form?
The mystery of how Libyan Desert Glass was formed is an ongoing discussion in the scientific research community. Theories include a comet airburst, volcanic origins, meteorite airburst (think Tunguska event) or meteorite impact. If Libyan Desert Glass formed due to a meteorite impact, no impact crater has been found yet, however the area is rich in meteorites. Another theory is a megaton airburst, where the meteoroid enters the atmosphere at speeds anywhere from 25,000mph to 160,000mph, the friction and heat is like lighting a giant match, the meteoroid ignites into a fireball as it strikes a path across the sky. Most meteoroids burn up high in the atmosphere before reaching Earth. However, in a megaton airburst the equivalent to a nuclear explosion occurs, this airburst sends such explosive energy into the atmosphere it can melt surface materials on Earth without leaving a crater.
Libyan Desert Glass contains grains of the mineral zircon and evidence of a rare mineral, reidite, which only forms during a meteorite impact, when atoms from the mineral zircon are forced into a tighter formation. Extreme pressure and temperatures to this degree are characteristics of a meteorite impact and not airbursts. But could a comet airburst create the "perfect storm" of extreme heat and pressure required to form such a rare glass? With the obscure mystery surrounding this gem, it's very possible. Imagine, Comet Tektites!
Some researchers believe Libyan Desert Glass could be silica from the meteorite or celestial body itself, other elements typically found in meteorites in high concentrations such as osmium and iridium particles were also discovered in Libyan Desert Glass, captured in the molten silica glass as it cooled and solidified. So could it be the molten remnants of a celestial body that rained down on Earth or is it our own terrestrial quartz married with extraterrestrial elements. We may never know for sure.
Libyan Desert Glass Characteristics
Libyan Desert Glass is considered by many to be the most beautiful and valuable tektite ever discovered. Specimens are usually a buttery light yellow or golden sunlit yellow, some are so pale they're almost colorless, some specimens have a slight green tint, while others are an opaque creamy white and darker specimens are the result of other mineral material trapped in the silica.
The transparency of Libyan Desert Glass varies, specimens can be opaque, translucent or transparent. The most prized, valuable specimens are gemmy and transparent. Next would be the translucent specimens with a slightly frosted appearance on the surface but gemmy inside. Well-formed texture with natural facets or character also holds a higher value. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Each Libyan Desert Glass gem is unique and fascinating piece of ancient history.
Libyan Desert Glass, Gemstone Of Ancient Egypt
Libyan Desert Glass has been prized and used for making carvings and jewelry for thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, the funerary necklace of King Tutankhamen has a large scarab centerpiece made of Libyan Gold Tektite. When the tomb of King Tutankhamen was discovered in 1922, the stone was thought to be Chalcedony, it wasn't until over 75 years later that Italian mineralogist Vincenzo de Michele analyzed the optical properties of the scarab gemstone and confirmed it was Libyan Desert Glass.
Libyan Desert Glass | Libyan Gold Tektite Metaphysical Properties
Libyan Gold Tektite carries the strong energizing frequencies of it's meteoric birth and can activate one's creative energies. It can enhance the strength of one's will, one's ability to create and one's power of manifestation. Libyan Gold Tektite is an ideal stone for enhancing one's meditation practice, the achievement of self-transformation, aligning with your highest calling and manifesting your true potential.
Libyan Gold Tektite can help overly shy or reclusive individuals to be more outgoing and social. It helps one to cultivate a more playful and creative approach to life. It stimulates the active aspect of the energy field, bringing a revitalizing frequency into the emotional body and sharpens one's mental abilities. It stimulates feelings of happiness, curiosity, willingness and playfulness. It's an excellent stone for those who take themselves, or life too seriously. Libyan Gold Tektite activates all chakras but is excellent for strengthening the solar plexus chakra. (References: Robert Simmons The Book of Stones.)
Metaphysical connections with gems are experienced in unique ways for each individual. We recommend taking in the information and then exploring with gems for yourself to see how metaphysical properties manifest for you personally.
Libyan Desert Glass is one of those gems that I experience a very strong personal connection to, the first time I met this stone was at the Tucson Gem Shows and even before seeing it, I felt almost a gravitational pull towards this gem. And when I saw it, the connection was instant. It's a rugged gem, not the typical beauty but it was love at first sight. I now do meditations with Libyan Desert Glass, in the first meditation session it released unexpected emotions and tears. And it uncovered feelings of relaxation, comfort, bliss and happiness. I also sleep with a Libyan Desert Glass gem on my nightstand or under my pillow.