By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
After jewelry retailers, museums may be a jeweler’s and gemstone dealer’s best friend when it comes to educating others about the beauty, mystery, and science behind minerals and gemstones.
Beyond bringing obvious attention to mineral and gemstone species and artists’ talents, donations, loans, and commissions of works to museums offer other benefits for jewelry designers and gemstone dealers. Museum placements raise profiles, help attract future opportunities, and offer “a bit of immortality to donors,” says Dr. Gabriela Farfan, Coralyn Whitney Curator of Gems and Minerals at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), in Washington, D.C.
Terri Ottaway, Museum Curator, GIA, in Carlsbad, Calif., agrees. “There is definitely a cachet to owning something important enough to have been on exhibit in a museum.” Museums function as libraries of natural history objects, bring the world to small towns, and open endless horizons. Museum placements are a celebration of both natural and human history, and transform “rare and unique objects into educational ones capable of inspiring new generations,” says Stefan Nicolescu, Collections Manager, Mineralogy & Meteoritics, Yale Peabody Museum, in New Haven, Conn.
For sure, museums explain, showcase, impress, preserve, and plant seeds for future collectors, gemologists, makers, scientists, and more.
“Museums tell the story of Mother Nature and man’s interactions with her,” says Shelly Sergent, Curator of Somewhere in the Rainbow Collection (SITR). The privately owned Scottsdale, Ariz.-based collection commissions, purchases, and loans hundreds of minerals, gemstones, and jewelry pieces each year to museums nationwide. “Without museums, all these treasures would be lost,” she says.
Loans or donations of works to museums can be an important part of a designer’s or dealer’s legacy. In fact, in a recent survey of AGTA members, 63% said they had made a loan or donation to a museum. Why? Responses ranged from preservation of material to public education to prestige and more.
Dr. Rob Lavinsky of The Arkenstone in Dallas has donated hundreds of items—including many mineral specimens, his main business—to museums.
“Museums are the entry point for so many people into appreciating mineral specimens as art and value,” he explains. “Museums are a huge factor in educating people that minerals and gemstones come from nature and exist as important collectibles in both raw and worked forms. Museums create collectors.”
This sentiment is the reason his company is expanding from sales into creating and managing traveling exhibitions.
“The goal is to show fine minerals as the origin of both gems and as raw materials for art and civilization throughout history,” he continues. “Our inaugural exhibition was in Santa Barbara in 2021–22 and the next will be in Los Angeles in 2024.”
Long called the Queen of Color, seasoned jewelry designer Paula Crevoshay of the same-name firm in Albuquerque, N.M., may have one of the most prolific histories with museums. Her curriculum vitae recounts pages of special exhibitions with important institutions worldwide. Many request one-woman shows for months at a time with her one-of-a-kind karat gold and gemstone creations. Among the most recent? “The Shape of Matter – Through the Artist’s Eye” at the Perot Museum in Dallas. There, she curated a collection to show how she features the seven crystal systems, such as cubic or hexagonal, in her jewelry.
More exhibits put her animal, garden, and elements-inspired designs front and center in places like The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
“The largest portion of my career has taken place in museums,” she says. In a year, upwards of 100 of her jewels could be on loan.
Without a doubt, artists’ career highlights are sure to include commissions. These are the cherry on top of routine sales—paid requests for specific items that will live forever in a museum or private collection.
Established jewelry designer Brenda Smith had a significant one several years ago for SITR. Sergent tasked her with developing a necklace featuring a strand of high-quality 15 mm white cultured freshwater Edison Pearls. “She wanted me to come up with something unexpected,” recollects Smith. The budget? None. “That was stressful!” adds Smith. After 10 months, she created a concept of an 18-inch neckpiece with clusters of Pearls, which Sergent approved.
The design has been shown in myriad museums, including the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Ga.
At press time, Crevoshay was working on a new commission from a Brazilian gemstone dealer who traveled extensively throughout the country in the 1980s. Her assignment is to design a bracelet showing all the mineral forms of Tourmaline—from watermelon to Paraíba to bicolor and more. “The dealer has collected and stashed away inventory for 45 years,” she says. “I’ve got boxes and boxes of material to go through.
Once complete—not likely for upwards of a year—the piece will land in a museum. “It’s a labor of love to leave a legacy like this,” she adds.
Not all commissions are for independent designers. Consider David Lampert of Lester Lampert Jewelers in Chicago, which was commissioned to create a whopping 27 pieces of jewelry for the Field Museum in the Windy City. “We’re a custom jeweler and a Chicago brand, so to be tied into an institution like this in the city is pretty special,” says Lampert.
Tellus Science Museum
Jose Santamaria, Executive Director; Amy Gramsey, Director of Curatorial Services; and Ryan Roney, Curator
About The Tellus Science Museum is a 120,000-square-foot science and natural history Smithsonian affiliate. Its Weinman Mineral Gallery has 9,500 square feet exhibit of minerals, gemstones, and meteorites from all over the world but specializes in specimens from Georgia,
the Southeast, and the U.S. The mineral collection has about 2,500 specimens. Many of its faceted and cabochon gemstones from Georgia have both rough and cut examples and were mostly produced by local hobbyists connected to the long history of the institution and its benefactors. Tellus does not commission pieces and requires donations to be gifts with no strings attached, and the donor is responsible for the appraisal. Even specimens Tellus has purchased have been the result of financial donations. Tellus considers loans if it’s a mineral or gemstone it needs for exhibit.
Exhibits Highlights of inventory include a large mass of well-formed hoppered gold crystals; a pair of vibrant red rhombohedral crystals of Rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine, Park County, Colorado; a palm-sized transparent, clear-blue hexagonal prism Beryl, variety Aquamarine, from Shigar Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan; and more. Tellus’s Birthstone case is one of its most popular gemstone attractions, and an Amber exhibit is slated to open in December 2023. Tellus hosts an annual RockFest, which reveals how to cut cabochons and faceted stones.
Wish List High-quality, colorful, and decently sized specimens of Emerald and Hiddenite from Hiddenite, N.C., for both raw minerals and cut gemstones; Tourmalines from Mount Mica, Maine; and Rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine, Colorado.
Contact [email protected]
Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History Museum (NMNH), including the National Gem and Mineral Collection (NGMC), Washington, D.C.
Dr. Gabriela Farfan, Coralyn Whitney Curator of Gems and Minerals; and Russell Feather, Gem Collection Manager
About The Smithsonian has just under 2 million square feet of space with over 385,000 mineral specimens and over 10,000 gemstones in the NMNH building. Approximately 1,600 minerals and over 600 gemstones are on exhibit. Collections are used for research by universities, museums, and other like institutions around the world as each specimen is valuable for science. The Collection is built 100% through specimen and monetary donations and endowment purchases. The museum only takes specimens on loan if there is some major opportunity to show the public something that would otherwise not be available, such as the “Wittelsbach-Graff” Diamond or the “Dresden Green” Diamond. Thus, the museum generally does not do commissions or loans of non-Smithsonian specimens.
Exhibits While the “Hope Diamond” and the “Candelabra Elbaite Tourmaline” helped put the Collection “on the map,” the museum has many other notable pieces, including the “Carmen Lucía Ruby,” the “Jolie Citrine Necklace” from Robert Procop, the “Lion of Merelani” tsavorite Garnet, Marie Antoinette’s Diamond earrings, and many other treasures.
Wish List A spectacular Padparadscha Sapphire, a large, fine-faceted example of a Kashmir Sapphire, a Paraíba Tourmaline, and a Tanzanian Spinel and Ruby, to name a few.
Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, Oak Brook, Ill.
Dorothy J. Asher, Director
About The Lizzadro Museum is 15,000 square feet with a public display area of 10,000 square feet and specializes in hardstone carving from around the world. The collection includes many varieties of cut and polished gemstone (lapidary art) with a significant collection of Chinese Jade from the Qing (1644–1911) to Republic period (1912–1949). The Museum also houses and displays lapidary materials, cut gemstones, rocks and minerals, fossils, and meteorites. It includes a Rock and Mineral Experience for education and special exhibits featuring jewelry or related subjects. Now through the end of September, the works of two gemstone carvers from Illinois are on display, and the Faust Agate cameo collection from Germany can be seen through the end of December. The museum has several hundred objects on permanent display and offers at least two temporary exhibits each year ranging from four to six months.
Exhibits At the end of 2018 the museum received a significant collection of Jade called the Chang Wen Ti Collection. It includes a five foot-high and six-foot-wide Jadeite pagoda that was designed by Chang Wen Ti in 1922 and was featured in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. The collection was a great addition to the existing permanent collection and prompted the museum to move and expand.
Wish List Lizzadro doesn’t actively pursue donations, but if a lapidary art object on the market catches our eye, the museum might be interested.
Contact [email protected]
Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum
University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum (ANGMM), Tucson, Ariz.
Violetta Wolf, Director; Elizabeth Gass, Exhibitions Manager; and Dr. Susan Leib, Curator of Collections
About The ANGMM has 12,000 square feet of exhibition space and 5,000 square feet of both workspace and collections storage. ANGMM’s collection is entirely composed of gemstones and minerals, so the collection storage and exhibition space are all for specimens. The museum has over 2,500 items on display, showcasing a wide variety of minerals, gemstones, jewelry, and objects of art. ANGMM gives approximately equal weight to minerals and gemstones, allowing visitors to explore the beauty and excitement of gemstones with the chemistry and geological significance of minerals and their overlap. ANGMM provides direct access to the cutting-edge research occur ring at the University of Arizona and showcases and interprets new developments in geoscience and planetary and gemstone science. ANGMM borrows pieces for display and accepts gifts; it has no commissions to date. Of three main galleries, one is entirely devoted to gemstones and jewelry. The Gem Gallery covers the structure and science behind the formation of gemstones and the techniques and talent that go into cutting stones and designing jewelry. It showcases a range of jewelry and objects of art.
Exhibits ANGMM’s single most important donation is its location! Through generous financial donations and support, the ANGMM relocated to its current exhibition space in the Pima County Historic Courthouse, in the heart of downtown Tucson. Many people gave to make this possible, with the Norville family as the leading supporter. ANGMM is proud to be named in honor of Alfena (Alfie) Norville, founder of the Gem and Jewelry Exchange (GJX) show and noted Tucson philanthropist.
Wish List ANGMM aims to add gemstones, jewelry, and objects of art from American materials or by American gemstone cutters, designers, and artists.
Somewhere in the Rainbow Collection (SITR)
Shelly Sergent, Curator, [email protected]
There is nothing else like the Somewhere in the Rainbow Collection. This 12-year-old privately owned collection of modern jewelry and gemstone cuts and key estate pieces comprises one of the jewelry industry’s most beloved entities.
With a dream job and a variable annual budget, Curator Shelly Sergent commissions and purchases countless jewels and gemstones to continually grow this massive inventory of beautiful objects from the earth. SITR owners are anonymous benefactors who not only support and collect artists’ works but also share their bounty with numerous museums and jewelry groups nationwide.
SITR acquisitions range from simple Quartz carvings to rare and large Paraíba Tourmaline from the original Mina da Batalha mine in Brazil. SITR’s objectives are to inspire and educate and share the beauty of their buys with Americans unaware of some of jewelry’s rarest treasures and biggest talents. SITR loans pieces not only for their aesthetics but also for minimally invasive research and scientific purposes.
SITR’s love affair with museums is well known. In a year, upwards of 40% of the SITR inventory is on loan. Currently, SITR has hundreds of pieces on display and loan in the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum, Tucson, Ariz., and the Museum of Mineralogy and Geology at Harvard University.
“Museums are a living encyclopedia of Mother Nature’s treasures,” says Sergent. “Mother Nature gives us rocks, cutters and lapidaries give us gemstones, and designers give us heirlooms. Museums preserve the story. You can’t have one without the other.”
Upwards of 35% of AGTA members have been commissioned by SITR to cut a gem or make a piece of finished jewelry or object of art.
GIA Museum in Carlsbad, Calif.
Terri Ottaway, Museum Curator
About GIA’s museum has about 10,000 square feet, though the exhibits are located throughout the campus rather than being segregated in a separate building. The museum storage space is 1,500 square feet. Visitation is by appointment only, during week days. Collections are specialized to support education programs and research. Holdings focus on gemstones, gemstone minerals, jewelry, carvings, art objects, lab-grown (synthetic) gemstones, treated gemstones, and historical gemstone-cutting equipment. On average, GIA produces two shows annually. In February, it creates a special exhibit for the public Tucson Gem & Mineral Society show and smaller themed exhibits throughout the year to accompany symposiums or a significant loan/donation. Every few years, GIA presents a major exhibit, such as the eccentric jewelry of Tony Duquette, called “More is More.” In 2017, “Centuries of Opulence: Jewels of India” featured jeweled objects from the Mughal era. GIA accepts loans of unusual/ extraordinary pieces that support its mission of educating about gemstones and gemology. The loan must be for a reasonable period (minimum six months) to warrant setting up insurance, shipping, doing a condition report, and preparing an exhibit. The lender signs a loan agreement stipulating what both parties are responsible for. This agreement can be extended (sometimes for years) if both parties are agreeable.
Exhibits In the 1950s, GIA received a substantial donation of Diamond crystals. Most of these were cut to have gemstones for gemology classes and for teaching Diamond grading. A few outstanding crystals were kept in the museum collection for teaching and display.
Wish List Big Diamonds and colored Diamonds. Most of the significant donated cut Diamonds that GIA possesses went toward material for classroom study. It would be wonderful to exhibit large gemstone Diamonds.
Contact [email protected]
Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals
Kimberly Vagner, Executive Director
About The Rice has about 12,000 square feet, and areas that house gemstones, specimens, and jewelry total 8,000 square feet. Rice was founded by Richard and Helen Rice, who had a love for material from the Northwest, Southwest, and Mexico, among other places. In addition to their collection, Rice also has a gallery dedicated to material found in the Pacific Northwest, including a display of Sunstone, Oregon’s state gemstone. Special-event days throughout the year focus on different earth science topics, and Rice offers one-off classes and lectures taught by experts like cutter Naomi Sarna. Most years, two special exhibits, such as “The Big Find: A Legend Continues” (a collection of Tourmaline jewelry by various artists on loan from the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum), take place.
Exhibits The “Alma Rose” Rhodochrosite was the crown jewel of Richard and Helen Rice’s 50 years of mineral collecting, and they donated it to Rice along with the rest of their collection. The “Rose” is from the Sweet Home Mine near Alma, Colorado, originally a silver mine that produced only modest amounts of ore. In 1992, fortunes changed when the mine owner found a 15 cm rhombohedral crystal he named the “Alma King.” Later came the “Alma Rose,” comprising five large Rhodochrosite rhombohedron crystals on a matrix of Quartz, Calcite, Sphalerite, and Tetrahedrite. Richard and Helen Rice bought both, saving the mine financially and inaugurating a decade of discovery. Eventually, the Rices sold the “Alma King” to the Coors Beer Company, which donated it to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Wish List Rice wants showstopper minerals like Amethyst geodes and giant pegmatite minerals that visitors can sit or stand next to, among other items.
The Museum of Mineralogy and Geology at Harvard University (MGMH)
Charlie Langmuir, Museum Director Prof.; and Raquel Alonso-Perez, Curatrix
About MGMH has collections that have been assembled since the late 18th century. MGMH serves as a repository for more than 400,000 specimens ranging from exhibition to reference specimens and representing a wide range of mineral species and localities from around the world. Dedicated display space on the third floor of the Harvard Natural History Museum is roughly 4,500 square feet, and space for the entire collection is roughly four times that size. Samples are divided into minerals, gemstones, meteorites, and rocks. Minerals comprise more than 100,000 specimens, gemstones feature more than 1,300 specimens (with special attention to New England gemstones), rocks contain more than 200,000 samples, and meteorites feature about 1,500 specimens and 600 different kinds. The minerals of the systematic series are chemically organized and number around 4,000. Current exhibits include birthstones and gemstones as art and jewelry, among others. The museum makes educational, exhibit, and research loans and accepts gifts though it doesn’t commission items.
Exhibits Some 60% of the collection consists of New England gemstones, including many carved ones. The most prized and well-known piece is the Hamlin necklace, which was created by Augustus Hamlin and consists of 18 Tourmalines from the Mount Mica mine in Maine that he owned and operated. The necklace was bequeathed to the museum in 1934.
Wish List The museum is open to pieces that will expand the breadth of offerings.
“The Lion of Merelani”
In spring 2023, one of the most exceptional pieces of Tsavorite Garnet in the world was given a permanent home in the National Gem Collection within the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C.
“The Lion of Merelani,” discovered in Merelani, northern Tanzania in 2017, as a 283-plus ct. piece of incredibly clean rough crystal with astounding green hues, went on a years-long journey to be born again as a 116.76 ct. square cushion cut.
Bruce Bridges, son of Campbell Bridges, discoverer of Tsavorite in 1967, who was murdered by assassins in August 2009, purchased the rough with plans to document its cutting journey. Friend and peer Shelly Sergent of Somewhere in the Rainbow Collection (SITR) approached her bosses, private collectors: would they want to travel this journey with Bridges and help find the “Lion” a stateside home? Ultimately, SITR and Bridges worked together to donate the historical gemstone: the largest and first 100-plus ct. square cushion-cut Tsavorite to ever be cut, the first 100-plus ct. Tsavorite to ever be cut in North America, and the largest precision-cut Tsavorite in the world, according to Bridges.
“It was the culmination of a 55-year-plus relationship with my family and the Smithsonian, honoring my father’s legacy and this treasure, one of the most important Tsavorites ever found,” Bridges told AGTA in the spring.
And that name, the “Lion,” is what many in Kenya called Campbell. “He was the king of Tsavorite, and the lion is the king of the jungle, so the two go hand in hand.”
Renowned gemstone cutter Victor Tuzlukov earned the honor of cutting the massive gem. The task wasn’t easy given that he typically works alone, and a team was present to document the process.
“Bruce stood nearby, making photos and videos, so it was more difficult to keep concentration,” Tuzlukov reveals. Seeing the result, however, proves he was more than capable of completing the challenge.
“Bruce, Shelly, and I worked together to create and optimize a design for this treasure,” he adds. “I am proud to be chosen for such remarkable work.”
Yale Peabody Museum
New Haven, Conn.
Stefan Nicolescu, Collections Manager, Mineralogy & Meteoritics
About Mineralogy galleries, which include gemstone displays, comprise just over 4,000 square feet of exhibition space in the renovated Yale Peabody Museum. Its ongoing, top-to-bottom renovation is adding over 50% more gallery space to the museum. The Peabody is more like an art gallery than a museum. Alongside remarkable objects from permanent collections, it displays specimens on loan from some of the finest private collections in North America and accepts gifts; the museum does not commission pieces. Before the renovation, the Peabody’s mineralogy galleries contained a single case of gemstones. The reimagined Yale Peabody Museum—reopening in early 2024—will house an entire room of rare and beautiful gemstones.
Exhibits The Peabody is home to a fine Smithsonite specimen, a signature Fluorite specimen that weighs 3,328 pounds, a 1.5-ounce Spangolite-type specimen from the Bisbee Mine in Arizona, a rare Jeremejevite specimen (found in only five countries in the world), and more. In 2016, a bequest allowed the museum to receive some astonishing jewelry gifts, and another generous donation came in 2022. A selection of recent acquisitions will go on permanent displaying the renovated museum.
Wish List The Peabody wants to contain as many of the 5,955 currently known mineral species as possible and prefers to acquire specimens on matrix to better educate visitors on how minerals form.
Contact [email protected]
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