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Photograph: D. Finnin/© American Museum of Natural History

A first look at the dazzling new Halls of Gems and Minerals at AMNH

The galleries feature more than 5,000 specimens from 95 countries.

By
Will Gleason
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One of AMNH’s most recognizable spaces, the glittering Halls of Gems and Minerals, is set to finally reopen to the public after a major transformation on June 12. We got a first look at the new space earlier today, which the pandemic had postponed by over a year. It will make you feel both completely captivated and kind of like you’re in the set-up for a heist film.

When it opens its doors later this month, the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals will display 5,000 gems and minerals from 95 countries over 11,000 square feet. Highlights of the collection include the 563-carat Star of India sapphire, the 563-carat Patricia Emerald and the nine-pound “Subway Garnet” that was discovered under 35th St. in Manhattan way back in 1885. (Turns out, it was actually discovered during excavation for the city’s sewers but “Sewer Garnet” isn’t quite as enticing, is it?)

gem
Photograph: Will Gleason

The first thing that strikes you upon entering the new halls, however, is a pair of gigantic amethyst geodes that sparkle under the exhibition’s precise lighting like two portals into a purple dimension. Formed nearly 135 million years ago, they look fantastic for their age. (They’re actually among the world’s largest geodes currently on display!)

Rather than being arranged chronologically, the objects in the new halls are arranged based on how they formed: “Category is: metamorphic, hydrothermal, igneous…” In addition to the geodes, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the museum’s famous Singing Stone, a massive azurite-malachite block that was collected in 1891 from Brisbee, Arizona, and the Garnet Slab, which is full of garnets that formed more than one billion years ago.

amnh
Photograph: Will Gleason

The Hall of Gems features the world-famous Star of India in a prime location surrounded by three walls broken down by type of gem: ruby, emerald, garnet etc. One display case even helpfully arranges every month’s birthstones based on modern, traditional and Ancient Roman traditions for all the Co-Star addicts out there.

In addition to the permanent installations, a smaller space called the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery will host rotating temporary exhibitions. The inaugural exhibit is a show-stopper called “Beautiful Creatures,” featuring historic jewelry inspired by animals. You won’t find any dogs or cats in the display cases, the jewelry instead is all inspired by wild animals found in other halls of the museum: snakes, crocodiles, butterflies and more. (The crocodile-inspired piece is especially stunning.)

amnh
Photograph: Will Gleason

Last of all, your first trip to the new Halls would be incomplete without checking out the truly mind-bending Fluorescent Rock which provides a dazzling light show based on which type of overhead light is directed at it. Discovered at Sterling Hill Mine in New Jersey, it contains some truly spectacular fluorescent mineral species found in local deposits.

amnh
Photograph: Will Gleason

The new Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals open on June 12 at the American Museum of Natural History.

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