Jewellery's final frontier

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The Independent Online
Ditch diamonds and forget about platinum. The most expensive jewellery of the 21st century will be made out of moon rock.

John Baines, from Newcastle, has teamed up with Space Quest, a firm based in his home town which has set up a Moon prospecting company, Lunar Gems Ltd, on the basis that "it seemed if it could be done an absolute fortune could be made".

Space Quest hopes that a round trip to the Moon will be possible by 2005 and that this will provide opportunities to pick up raw materials.

The venture is tempted by the prospect of big profits. In 1993 Sotheby's auctioned one carat - 200 milligrams - for $442,500 (pounds 276,550). That would make a kilogram worth $2.2bn, or $2.2m per gram. At those prices, a kilogram of moon rock would be worth far more than it would cost to get it.

However, Mr Baines faces stiff competition from American competitors, who may have an advantage in getting hold of venture capital. But according to one expert scientist, moon rocks would not look that great as earrings - "rather a dull grey colour" - and might be easy to forge.

Monica Grady, an expert in extraterrestrial materials at the Natural History Museum, in London, said: "There were a lot of venture capitalists sniffing around at the Lunar Planetary Science conference in March, trying to raise money for a mission to the Moon. They wanted to do it with the Discovery TV Channel, which has a series of shops. They reckoned they could sell vials of moon dust for $50 a piece."

While vials of dust might be saleable, she thinks that making jewellery would present a problem. "I don't think any of them would polish up very well. You would have to make sure you were getting rock, not soil. It might be that the cachet of owning something which costs thousands of dollars could make up for it being a dull grey colour.

"But I think there would probably be a lot of fakes," she added.