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March-April 2018

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Museum Notes


The Western Museum of Mining and Industry, in Colorado Springs, received two significant recognitions at the 2017 Denver Show, one as winner of the Friends of Mineralogy Award for best educational exhibit by an institution, and another as winner of the show's Donna Chirnside Memorial Museum Trophy for best educational display by a museum. Actually, the crowd-pleasing display included a total of eleven cases that documented the origin of gold and its historical extraction and processing to its final refined product using modern processes. The theme was carried out with memorabilia, models, minerals, and photographs.

Display case number seven, of eleven, at the Denver Gem and Mineral Show by the Western Museum of Mining Industry. The displays won both the Friends of Mineralogy Award and the Donna Chirnside Memorial Museum Trophy.


In mid-October 2017 came news that the Halls of Gems and Minerals of the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, will undergo a complete redesign to transform the 11,000-square-foot space into a gleaming showcase for its world-renowned collection. The redesigned halls will be named for Roberto and Allison Mignone, longtime museum supporters and volunteers.

Greeting visitors will be two amethyst geodes from Uruguay: one 9 feet tall, the other 12 feet tall. Several other large-scale specimens and exhibits are planned. A dramatic feature will be a stunning Crystalline Pass linking the new halls to the also-new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation (scheduled to open in 2020). Another addition will be a massive panel of fluorescent rock, the centerpiece of a new fluorescence and phosphorescence gallery. Other special galleries will include a gem gallery and a space for rotating exhibitions. The renovation is part of a series of enhancements to historic parts of the museum leading up to its 150th anniversary.

A conceptual rendering of the Crystalline Pass connecting the Halls of Gems and Minerals to the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History.


For those who missed it the first time, one of the world's most famous gold nuggets is back at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. The famed Ausrox Gold Nugget was on loan as part of the original collection that debuted in the Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall when the museum opened to the public in December 2012. In 2015 the Ausrox Nugget, regarded as the third largest gold nugget in existence, went on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, but it's now back in Dallas. The nugget was found in 2010 by three miners who were prospecting with a handheld metal detector in Australia.

The Ausrox Gold Nugget is back on display at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.


After twenty-five years at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, in Pittsburgh, Marc Wilson, curator of collections for the Section of Minerals, retired in August 2017. Wilson began managing the museum's mineral and gem collection in 1992 and greatly improved the collection and exhibition halls during his tenure. In 2007 Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems was renovated and expanded with the addition of the Wertz Gallery: Gems and Jewelry. Wilson received the Friends of Mineralogy Award of Merit and was recognized as the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical and Lapidary Societies Honoree for the 2001 American Federation of Mineralogical Societies Scholarship Award. That same year he was inducted into the National Rockhound and Lapidary Hall of Fame. He served as a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals from 1998 through 2017. Collection Assistant Debra Wilson has been promoted to collection manager in his place.

Debra and Marc Wilson with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s award-winning display at the 2017 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show®. Marc recently retired as curator of collections in the Section of Minerals, a position now held by Debra.


This past August, while many collectors were enjoying the Dallas Mineral Symposium, a scant 240 miles away parts of Houston was literally being blown away and flooded when Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The devastating storm affected the staff and members of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, along with thousands of others.

The museum's immediate response was to give back to those who had experienced loss. For weeks, staff personnel visited local shelters with their educational outreach programs, volunteering their time to extend education to children during this turbulent period. Their education teams pooled resources to facilitate a low-cost, pop-up camp, offering relief to families with delayed school schedules. They also extended the museum digitally, posting blogs with fun “no supplies necessary” activities, daily educational videos on social media, and virtual highlights of museum collections on Google Cultural Institute. In addition, the museum accepted donations of new or gently used school and art supplies, posting a “want” list on Amazon Wish list. Looking ahead, financial gifts were earmarked for offering school districts discounted field trips, free outreach programs, special programming, and more.


Currently at the Mineralogical Museum at the University of Delaware, in Newark, is an exhibition titled Contemporary Chinese Carvings: Classic Concepts from the collection of Francis Hueber. The display, which continues until 11 May, features twentieth-century Chinese carvings of agate with fine detail but with forms and motifs that are traditionally Chinese. For visitor information, see

Chinese carvings now at the University of Delaware’s Mineralogical Museum.


American jewelry designers and phenomenal gemstones are current attractions at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, in Elmhurst, Illinois. Smithsonian Gems is an exclusive exhibit from the gem vaults of the National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C. Featured are twelve pieces that will be on display through March of this year.




Two of the jewelry pieces on display at the Gemological Institute of America; both are from a private collection. Top: This eighteenth-century gold pendant, the Mughal Horn Pendant, features a 125-carat Colombian emerald engraved in Arabic with salutations of peace. Set in 22-karat gold with diamonds, Burmese rubies, emerald beads, and dangling pearls, it measures 6 × 8.5 × 2 cm. Above: This nineteenth-century diamond, ruby, and emerald necklace with mango-shaped elements, the Royal Manga Mala, is 79 cm long; the pendant is 11 × 8.5 cm.


In September 2017 thieves broke into the Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Museum, in Fallbrook, California, and stole five iconic and irreplaceable tourmaline specimens from different mines throughout San Diego County. In addition to those five specimens, several “rough-and-cut” sets of tourmaline as well as emerald, morganite, amethyst, aquamarine, topaz, garnet, and ametrine were taken. A generous reward for information leading to the recovery of all, or some, of the pieces is being offered. Suspicious sales or activities should be reported to Detective Steve Ashkar, San Diego County Sheriff, 760/451-3111; reference should be made to case No. 17147235.

Editor's note: By way of an update, as we go to press we have learned that a few of the rough-and-cut pieces and three of the five major mineral specimens have been recovered, although significant damage has been sustained by some.


An exhibit of intricately designed seventeenth- to twentieth-century jewelry and ornate objects made its debut this past October at the Gemological Institute of America's world headquarters in Carlsbad, California. Centuries of Opulence: Jewels of India, which continues through 1 March, showcases three hundred years of adornment with fifty lavish historical jewelry pieces and objects, including several from the Mughal Empire (1526–1857). Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and other gems decorate the pieces. The gems not only conveyed wealth and status, but they were also worn as talismans for the protection and enhancement of life. Others honored religious figures or were integral to the marriage contract. The pieces are on loan from a private collection.


Rocks & Minerals welcomes museum news items and photographs for this column. Correspondence should be sent to Marie Huizing, 5341 Thrasher Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45247;

COLOR SPONSOR for the Museum Notes column for 2018 is Laura Delano of LLD Productions, Inc.


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