Sigma Xi Colloquium

Wednesday, December 8, 1999
10:30-11:30 AM
Green Auditorium

The National Gem Collection - Science and Lore

Jeffrey E. Post
Curator-in-Charge, Mineral Collection
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560-0119


The gift by Harry Winston of the Hope Diamond in 1958 triggered a chain of other major acquisitions that have established the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian Institution as one of the premier such collections in the world. This slide illustrated lecture will explore the intriguing human histories as well as the fascinating science associated with such renowned gem and jewelry pieces as the Hope Diamond, Star of Asia Sapphire, Napoleon Diamond Necklace, Hooker Emerald, etc. A few of the questions that will be explored include: Why is the Hope Diamond blue (and why is it sometimes orange, and is it cursed)? Why are rubies red and emeralds green? What causes opals' fiery flashes of color, or the star in star sapphires? A brief overview of the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, opened in September, 1997, will also be presented.