The Transformative Power of Minerals

Aquamarine, surely one of the most evocative of all gems - it's like water, like silk, like the play of a child.

Aquamarine – surely one of the most evocative gems. It’s like water, like silk, like the play of a child.

The National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The gems and minerals gallery holds examples of ‘the biggest in the world’, ‘the best cut in the world’, ‘the least flawed’ or ‘only flawless’ etc.

Carmen Lucia Ruby 23.10 carat. Among the finest large, faceted Burmese rubies known.

Carmen Lucia Ruby 23.10 carat. Among the finest large, faceted Burmese rubies known.

There are many famous gemstones and pieces of jewellery including the Hope Diamond, one of the most famous diamonds in the world. The world’s largest flawless crystal ball is a fortune teller’s dream.

Logan Sapphire, 423 carat. Sri Lanka. Among the world's largest-known faceted blue sapphires.

Logan Sapphire, 423 carat. Sri Lanka. Among the world’s largest-known faceted blue sapphires.

The minerals range from unexpected…

wavellite

wavellite

wavellite

wavellite

mesolite

Calcite variations

Calcite variations

through bizarre,

IMG_6177

breath-taking,

sulphur

sulphur

and ‘are you kidding; someone must have whipped up this one in the props room’,

IMG_6169crop

IMG_6155

to downright beautiful.

Corundum (var. ruby) crystals in marble. Burma.

Corundum (var. ruby) crystals in marble. Burma.

Wildlife programmes have made us familiar with the exotic plumage of birds, the lush colours and complex forms of flowers, the bizarreness of deep sea and microscopic creatures but we seldom see our mute and all but immobile friends, the minerals. It was a decade since I had seen anything like this collection and there were far fewer varieties in that exhibition.

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I spent a very long time in the minerals gallery.

IMG_6169

Almost every item on display made me want to reach for my camera but something deeper and more primitive was at work in me. I took very few photos. I needed to immerse myself and be fully present with the chunks of earth in front of me. They were gifts from the deep, from the inaccessible, from the far away, from places I would never see, and I felt privileged to be among them.

variscite

variscite

Years ago, when I completed a first aid course I finally understood our district nurse. She walked the corridors of our small school emanating calm and power. During my course, as I counted heartbeats, monitored breathing and learnt when not to apply bandages, I understood the source of her self-assuredness: she knew how to save lives.

Back at the hotel on the night of my gallery visit I felt invincible: I had seen minerals.

Comprised only of carbon.

Comprised only of carbon.

Comprised only of carbon.

Comprised only of carbon.

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6 responses to “The Transformative Power of Minerals

  1. The Hungarian Museum of Natural History has a smallish but stunning mineral collection. One of our favorites is a small thin stone that has inclusions that look EXACTLY like a miniature forest. I don’t recall the type of stone, but I’ll check next time. And you’re right, some of this stuff looks like it couldn’t possibly occur in nature – but it does!

  2. Amazing! I like the variscite, what a beautiful green colour! Nature is a great source of beauty that people tend to bypass on their quest for “bigger and better” thrills. We’re losing touch with the important basics – nature and humanity.

  3. The mineral gallery looks fabulous. Sad to say, I’ve only had a short time in Washington … thus I should return.

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