London Natural History Museum: Gem & Mineral Hall

Having blogged on and off for the past ten years, I often find it hard to start a blog post. I struggle to find that elusive introduction, a comforting mix of excitement and intrigue that sweeps the reader (that’s you) into a few paragraphs well worth your time on this site. Part of that process often includes some background research, which is what brought me to this article from The Atlantic archives on the history of the diamond: Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? By Edward Jay Epstein (February 1982). I highly recommend that you read it, it debunks the romanticism behind diamonds and brings a historical perspective to fine jewels. I do wish I had read it before my trip to the Gem & Mineral Hall at the London Museum of History, though it’s no less enjoyable after the trip. Speaking of, if diamonds and martian rocks pique your curiosity, you’ll be more than spoiled at this hall featuring some of this planet’s (and others) greatest treasures. Let’s take a walk –

Gem and Mineral Hall London History Museum

The museum holds over 500,000 rocks gems and minerals including 5,000 meteorites. The collection is available to scientists and mineralogists, but members of the public must view these precious minerals through the rows and rows of class enclosed viewing cases.

The below Aurora Pyramid of Hope is a collection of 296 naturally colored diamonds that took over than 25 years to collect. Located in “The Vault” of the Gem and Mineral Hall, the pyramid is exposed to a rotation of ultraviolet light which allows you to see the diamonds’ hidden quality – some of the precious gems glow, revealing different shades and colors unseen in normal light.

Lava stamped in Vesuvius back in 1820, pyrite from Cornwall, dendtric crystal fom Washington, and sample of glowing green botryoidal iridescent with datolite from Rio Tinto in Spain, make this place a veritable international treasure chest. Stones have made their way to the museum through a variety of avenues – fieldwork, seized material, donations, acquisitions, and bequests, though the museum asserts that they only acquire material that have a provenance (complete details of where and when it was collected).

I could spend hours in the hall – and have to say, I am the tiniest bit jealous of the experts that get to handle these unique treasures. If you’re ever in the London area, and the museum is open – I definitely recommend a visit.

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