This is the highest price for a meteorite sold through an online Christie's auction, and the highest price ever paid for a Canyon Diablo meteorite, said the meteorite's now former owner Darryl Pitt, who is curator of the Macovich Collection of Meteorites. It had been estimated to sell for $150,000 to $250,000, Christie's said Wednesday.
It is rare for several reasons. Only about 2 percent of all meteorites are made largely of iron. Further, very few of those are regarded as aesthetically impressive enough to be considered natural sculpture, Pitt said.
"Think of it as the quintessential American meteorite," Pitt told CNBC. "This one was really unusual. Most of them are highly angular, but this one has a gently curved surface that is evocative of a sculpture by Henry Moore."
On display at the auction was a specimen that resulted from the fireball seen over Michigan in January. That meteorite will be auctioned off at another Christie's auction, based out of London April 10-17.
The market in meteorites is young but is growing fast, Pitt said.
For example, 82 percent of the auction's 44 lots sold and more than a dozen sold for more than their high estimate.
Ten years ago, the same Canyon Diablo iron meteorite would have sold for one-tenth of the price it sold for on Wednesday, Pitt said.
"A few years from now, it's going to be worth twice as much," he said.
CORRECTION: Ten years ago, the same Canyon Diablo iron meteorite would have sold for one-tenth of the price it sold for on Wednesday, the meteorite's former owner says. The pricing was misstated in an earlier version of this article.