Visiting the Mineral and Gem Collection at The Smithsonian, Washington DC
Today was the first day of a 6-day journey to see what I am sure will be 4 wonderful exhibitions in the United States of America. After a long break from blogging I’ve decided to write a few words about this trip. I am often time poor these days and so to see 4 amazing collections needs to be shared with you my friends and clients, so enjoy!
The first is a permanent exhibit, being the Mineral and Gem Collection of The Smithsonian in Washington DC. There are approximately 350,000 mineral specimens and 10,000 gemstones as well as a few ( as in around 100 on display) magnificent jewels. Fortunately one is not expected to see them all but for me the jewels were absolutely stunning and a complete thrill to look at again and again. Obviously I could go on and on about many of these items but for each exhibition I am going to select my 3 favourites for you to enjoy and maybe in the future I will write a talk featuring all the others for you to enjoy even more. So think of this particular blog post as a “teaser” of things to come!
The first cabinet contained The Hope Diamond; a gem so legendary and mysterious that there is even a book written about it. I was always under the impression it was a beautiful cornflower colour whereas in fact it is darker- more the colour of an Australian Sapphire, though not the really dark ones. It is stunning and an item I can now tick off my “wanting to see” list. My camera and the bullet proof glass affects the colour of a photograph so though I have included one, take a look at this link https://www.si.edu/spotlight/hope-diamond, to see what it really looks like!
It was donated by Mr Harry Winston to the museum in 1958 and weighs 45.54 carats (described as being about the size of a small walnut). It’s mounted as a cluster pendant with a single row of Diamonds around the outside and hangs from a single line diamond necklace which even to my eye looked a bit short! Then again, it needs to stand out and so probably was designed to sit almost at choker length so nothing could take away in the surroundings from this magnificent jewel against a beautiful neckline. And after all who am I to question Mr Harry Winston? A jeweller I have admired and respected since a child.
From The Hope Diamond we then entered a larger room with a display of magnificent gems and jewels many of them historical.
If we’re talking gems then surely one of the most breathtaking Aquamarines I have ever seen would have to be what is known as the Dom Pedro Aquamarine from Pedra Azul, Minais Gerais, Brazil. At 10,363 carats and 14 inches tall, it was found as recently as the late 1980s and cut from a crystal approximately 2 feet long, in the form of an obelisk. With “negative facets” fashioned into two of the reverse faces the effect is designed to make it look as though light is emanating from within. This was a gift in 2011 to the museum from Jane Mitchell and Jeffrey Bland a generous couple who have a keen interest in gemstones but made their money from the surgical tools and medical instrument business. The stone or gem sculpture was crafted by Bernd Munsteiner also known as the “Picasso of gems” and rightly so.
My third favourite item of this exhibition is this beautiful Burmese Ruby and Diamond bracelet. It contains famed Burmese “pigeon blood” Rubies, (approximately 60.00 carats in total) and Diamonds, and is mounted in all platinum. Following a theme in many of my jewels (though of course they’re not following me) Harry Winston Inc remounted these Rubies from another unknown piece of jewellery in 1951. It’s classic yet stunning and as you can see uses only the finest Diamonds that sparkle to perfection.
This piece was donated to the Smithsonian by an unknown donor in 1961.
After viewing many other jewels and gemstones my tour of The Smithsonian came to an end by walking through the mineral area. One stand that took my particular interest featured minerals that react to ultraviolet light. Here is the display under normal light and then under ultraviolet light.
Until tomorrow …..