Trinitite and early nuclear testing

Seventy years ago, on July 16 1945, the first nuclear weapon was tested in the desert near Alamogordo New Mexico. Known as “Trinity,” this test was the culmination of the Manhattan Project, which ultimately led to the end of WWII. The Plutonium implosion device called “The Gadget” was placed at the top of a 100-foot tower. 

At 5:30 in the morning on July 16, the device exploded producing a blast which sent a mushroom cloud over 38,000 feet into the sky and released energy that was equivalent to twenty thousand pounds of TNT.  This near instantaneous release of the binding energy that holds matter together generated heat as much as 10,000 times hotter than the surface of the sun. The heat could be felt by observers who were stationed over 10 miles away from the tower.

William Kolb, author of “Trinitite - The Atomic Age Mineral” (see below) points out that the distribution of Eu-152 around Ground Zero indicates most Trinitite resulted from vaporized sand that condensed into drops and rained down to the blast area as small puddles. He further writes that the crater itself was barren of Trinitite and that Trinitite actually fell beyond the rim of the 200 meter crater.

In 1952, the test site was bulldozed over by the Atomic Energy Commission. The only Trinitite on the market today was collected prior to 1952. The Trinitite below was collected by the former Los Compadres rock shop in Ojo Caliente, New Mexico in the 1940’s. Trinitite contains traces of the fission products Cesium 137 and Americium 241 and remains mildly radioactive to this day (approximately 10X background radiation).

The British conducted a signifiant amount of above-ground testing of their nuclear weapons in Australia in an area known as Maralinga. We recently acquired a few specimens of “Maralingite” - fused sand from this early testing. More information about Maralingite is at the bottom of this page. 


Trinitite in 1/2 pound quantities for sale

Large amounts of Trinitite, such as the half-pound shown below, show both Cs-137 and Americium 241 (a decay product of Plutonium, which fueled the implosion device tested at the Trinity Site).




One-half pound of Trinitite

Description: For a limited time, we are offering Trinitite in half-pound quantities, such as the representative sample shown above. This is a truly unique and rarely seen opportunity to own the by-product of the first nuclear weapon ever tested in the desert near Alamogordo New Mexico on July 16 1945.

Price: $500 US shipping: $25

Massive slab of Trinitite (or Trinalike?) from Alamogordo, New Mexico

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Massive slab of Trinitite (or Trinalike?) from Alamogordo, New Mexico

If this is indeed Trinitite, it is the largest specimen of Trinitite ever found and weights over 3000 grams. As reported by the gentleman who recovered it in 1952:

"When the Army bulldozer scraped the surface in 52 they only got the big pieces of Trinitite... In 1956, 50 people were there. I do not remember any other children other my two brothers. We collected maybe up to 80 to 90 pieces of Trinitite that were from 1” to 2” in size. Stuffed them into our pants pockets…. I was the one who had to see what else was around. I found the ditch and felt, at the time, I should have a really big piece. My brothers didn’t care... No photos were allowed... My Dad was an optical engineer at White Sands  Missile Range. Mom was a home maker….The ground, at the site, was covered hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of Trinitite.  No attempt to rid the area of small (.25 to 3”) pieces. I do not know how my Dad got to be one of the guests... I was 10. My brothers were 9 and 11. It was a a very narrow, dusty road at the time, used very little. No vegetation around the site for a long way from the site. Remember this a long time ago, but many of the details I will never forget….

Subsequent analysis has shown that certain parts of this slab do indeed show elevated levels of radioactivity above background, as would be expected with Trinitite. However, a Gamma analysis by William Kolb (see below) does not show the typical Cesium and Americium peaks observed for Trinitite. It’s conceivable that something like Trinitite was produced from other tests performed in the area, but the origin of this slab remains today unknown. 

Not for sale. 

Three Extremely Rare Maralingite Specimens from Australia





These extremely rare specimens are from Maralinga in a remote western area of the state of South Australia. It was home to the Maralinga Tjarutja, an indigenous Australian people. It was also the site of British nuclear tests in the 1950s.  As shown in the photo above, these specimens over 1000 CPM, similar to levels observed with Trinitite.

Not for sale. 

Melted Uranium Oxide from Site of German Accident in WWII


Melted Uranium Oxide from Site of German Accident in WWII

Melted Uranium from the site of a nuclear accident in Gottow. The level of activity is slightly more than Trinitite. 

The location is referenced in in PhysicsWorld (June 2005) as follows: "Diebner managed to carry out one last experiment in the last months of the war. The exact details of the experiment are unclear. After a series of measurements had been taken, Diebner wrote a short letter to Heisenberg on 10 November 1944 that informed him of the experiment and hinted that there had been problems with the reactor. Unfortunately, no more written sources have been found relating to this final reactor experiment in Gottow.”

Not for sale. 

Melted Uranium Oxide from Site of German Accident in WWII

Books on Trinitite

Trinitite: The Atomic Age Mineral. Copyright © William M. Kolb, 2015

The world’s foremost expert on Trinitite, William Kolb, has a really fascinating book (shown below) on the man-made mineral..

This book is the most comprehensive work on Trinitite available today. In 128 pages, the author covers a wide range of topics including the formation of Trinitite, ground zero before and after the detonation, the radioactivity of Trinitite and proper care and handling of the mineral. The book has dozens of color and black & white photos of the minerals and the test site, and detailed examinations of the characteristics of Trinitite. Written by the author of the well-known book "Living With Radiation: The First 100 Years” this is a must-read for anyone interested in Trinitite. 

Price: $28. To purchase, contact the publisher directly at Trinitite: The Atomic Age Mineral

© Pro Partners & Associates 2021