Smithsonian Jewels: An Exclusive Sneak Peak

Hope diamond2A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of a small group tour behind-the-scenes of the Smithsonian jewels, officially known as the Gem and Mineral collection. Talk about a highlight of my life! As a Graduate Gemologist and appraiser,  this was a dream come true.

Behind the “restricted” signs

Smithsonian jewel

A rare 19,000 carat smoky topaz

Russell Feather, the Curator of the Gem and Mineral collection, took us past alarms and “restricted” signs to what looked like a floor-to-ceiling, old card catalog. Instead of cards, there were gem and mineral samples from all over the world.

From there, we entered a vault with the most unique examples of gems. We got to get up-close-and-personal with the most magnificent jewels I’ve ever seen. Tour highlights included:

  • A 2,000-carat faceted blue topaz
  • A 5-strand pearl necklace. Why so special? These were natural pearls with a Cartier clasp…valued at a cool $1 million

    A $1 million set of pearls

    $1 million Cartier pearls

  • A ruby bracelet, also by Tiffany, valued at about $5,000
  • The largest smoky topaz at 19,000 carats
  • A Budellaci cup of carved agate, encrusted with diamonds and pearls

There’s always Hope

Of course, if you’ve ever visited the Museum of Natural History, you’ve probably ogled (I mean, viewed) the magnificent Hope Diamond. This stone (originally 112 carats!) was recut in 1673 resulting in a 67 1/8-carat stone for King Louis XIV of France. It continued to move from monarch to monarch until it was purchased by Henry Philip Hope in the 19th century. In 1958, Harry Winston donated it to the Smithsonian, where it remains one of the most visited exhibits.

Hope Diamond

The Centerpiece: The Hope Diamond

Final thoughts on an amazing trip

I see the Hope Diamond as the perfect harmony of nature and man — nature created the gem, and man was able to release the inner beauty of the stone.

The sheer beauty of it started me thinking about our fascination with gems. I always tell people to wear their jewelry. It’s meant to be enjoyed. While it’s great to go to a museum and view specimens, we should all experience the joy that they bring us in daily life.

As always, if I can help you with anything, including appraising your own treasures, let me know!

Brilliantly yours,



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