It is early morning, and the officer on duty at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History rolls back the heavy security doors and raises the Hope Diamond from its overnight resting place into the display vault. The lights flash on, the pedestal starts to rotate, and the Hope Diamond begins the opening act of its daily performance. Today, like every day, thousands to tens of thousands of visitors will press into the Harry Winston Gallery of the Geology, Gems, and Minerals exhibition to experience the beauty, magic, and mystery of one of the world's most famous diamonds, making it one of the most visited museum objects in the world (fig. 1).
Dr. Jeffrey E. Post is a research mineralogist and the curator-in-charge of the National Gem and Mineral Collection at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History.
Dr. François Farges is professor of mineralogy at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Paris) and a full consulting professor in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California.