Keno Brothers Blog
June 4th, 2020
Simple-to-use DNA testing kits, such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA, have been providing millions of families with eye-opening snapshots of where their ancestors came from. Now, the Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF) is employing similar DNA fingerprinting technology to determine the origin of natural and cultured pearls.



By combining DNA fingerprinting with age-dating technology already provided by SSEF, it is now possible to gain previously inaccessible scientific insights into a pearl's unique origin and provenance. In the future, a natural pearl, such as "La Peregrina" (seen here), could be tested to determine exactly where and when it was harvested.

The new fingerprinting capabilities were developed by SSEF in partnership with the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich. The organizations have substantially expanded their DNA fingerprinting reference database and capabilities, which now include eight oyster species that produce the vast majority of pearls found in the natural and cultured pearl trade.

They included the following:

• Pinctada radiata (Arabian/Persian Gulf & Ceylon pearl oyster)
• Pinctada imbricata (Atlantic pearl oyster)
• Pinctada fucata/martensii (Akoya pearl oyster — Japan)
• Pinctada maxima (South Sea pearl oyster — Australia, Philippines, Indonesia)
• Pinctada margaritifera (Tahitian black-lipped pearl oyster)
• Pinctada mazatlanica (Panama pearl oyster)
• Pinctada maculata (Pipi pearl oyster — French Polynesia and the Cook Islands)
• Pteria sterna (Rainbow-lipped pearl oyster — Gulf of California, Mexico)

SSEF has refined its testing method so the subject pearl will not be harmed. The amount of material required for testing has been considerably reduced to an infinitesimal amount.

"We are happy to build on decades of pearl research at SSEF to launch this new service for the pearl trade,” said Dr. Michael S. Krzemnicki, director of SSEF. “DNA fingerprinting will contribute to further documenting the origin and geographic provenance of historic natural pearls and traceability efforts in the cultured pearl trade.”

“In addition to our collaboration on DNA testing of precious corals and ivory," said Dr. Adelgunde Kratzer of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich, “we are pleased to be able to contribute our lab expertise to documenting pearls, which are one of the oldest and most iconic gems known to humankind.”

SSEF’s research on species identification creates important opportunities to better understand historic pearl trading routes and the origins of notable pearls.

Unlike many other natural and cultured pearls, the provenance of La Peregrina is well documented. After its discovery in the Gulf of Panama in the 16th century, King Phillip II of Spain gave the teardrop-shaped, 55.95-carat La Peregrina to Queen Mary I (Mary Tudor). The natural pearl also has been owned by Spanish royalty, the Bonapartes of France and the British Marquis of Abercorn. In 1969, Richard Burton spent $37,000 (outbidding a prince at Sotheby’s) to buy La Peregrina for Elizabeth Taylor as a gift for Valentine’s Day.

Credit: Photo courtesy of SSEF.
June 3rd, 2020
On Friday, Lady Gaga dished the tasty 2019 Oscars backstory of how the $30 million, 128.54-carat "Tiffany Diamond" that she wore during the awards ceremony remained on her neck during a Madonna-hosted afterparty — and a late-night excursion to Taco Bell.



During her virtual appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Gaga described the celebration after scoring her first Oscar for Best Original Song.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen that night — I was just so happy to be there,” the 34-year-old singer-actress told the host. “My sister and I were barreling through champagne backstage, and when we left, I didn’t tell anyone, and I still had the diamond on.”

The extraordinary cushion-cut sparkler, which normally resides on the main floor of Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship store, has been worn by only three women during its 143-year history. The fancy yellow diamond made its first public appearance on the neck of Mrs. E. Sheldon Whitehouse at the 1957 Tiffany Ball. Actress Audrey Hepburn famously wore it in 1961 publicity posters for the motion picture Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

And, in February 2019, Gaga and The Tiffany Diamond turned heads at the 91st Academy Awards. Tiffany's security team was on hand throughout the evening to keep a watchful eye on the famous stone.

“Everyone freaked out that I was still wearing [the necklace],” Gaga said. “When I went to Madonna's house, security guards were side-eyeing me."

Gaga was finally separated from the mammoth diamond when she and her entourage sought a late-night snack at a fast-food drive-thru.

“When we were heading to Taco Bell, my car was pulled over and Tiffany's security politely removed [the necklace] from my neck,” Gaga said.

The 128.54-carat yellow diamond was cut from a 287.42-carat rough stone discovered in the Kimberley diamond mines of South Africa in 1877 and acquired the following year by Tiffany’s founder, Charles Lewis Tiffany.

The rough stone was brought to Paris, where Tiffany’s chief gemologist, Dr. George Frederick Kunz, supervised the cutting of the diamond into a cushion-shape brilliant with an unprecedented 82 facets — 24 more facets than the traditional 58-facet brilliant cut. The stone measures slightly more than an inch across.



In 1961, the diamond was set in a ribbon rosette necklace to promote Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In 1995, it was part of a brooch called Bird on a Rock, which was exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

The Tiffany Diamond necklace worn by Gaga was designed in 2012 to mark Tiffany’s 175 anniversary celebration. The platinum necklace features an openwork motif of sun rays glistening with 481 diamonds totaling more than 100 carats.

Credits: Academy Awards screen capture via YouTube.com/ABC; Bird on a Rock image by Shipguy [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
June 2nd, 2020
Today we celebrate June’s official birthstone by shining our spotlight on the world's largest natural pearl. Tipping the scales at 600 carats (about a quarter pound) and standing 3 inches tall, the "Pearl of Asia" boasts a storied history that dates back more than 400 years.



Jewelry experts believe the baroque-shaped pearl was discovered in the pearl fishing grounds of the Persian Gulf sometime between the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

The natural pearl first surfaced in India, but became the property of the King of Persia (present-day Iran) after the siege of Delhi. The King then gifted the gem to Chinese Emperor Qianlong, who believed the giant pearl would bring happiness and good fortune.

The Pearl of Asia migrated to the west in the early 20th century when it was placed into its current setting — an organic motif that resembles a bunch of fruits dangling from a vine. The smaller fruits are represented by an oval-shaped white pearl as well as a cabochon-cut jade and pink quartz.

Natural pearls, such as the Pearl of Asia, are exceedingly rare because they are created by mollusks randomly, without human intervention. When a grain of sand or similar irritant finds its way between the mollusk’s shell and its mantle tissue, the process begins. To protect itself, the mollusk instinctually secretes multiple layers of nacre, an iridescent material that eventually becomes a pearl. Cultured pearls, by contrast, are created when a shell bead is surgically embedded inside the body of the mollusk to stimulate nacre secretion.

The Pearl of Asia is said to be the largest known natural "nacreous" pearl, meaning that it is formed with layers of nacre. The largest non-nacreous pearl — the "Pearl of Allah" — weighs more than 14 pounds. That pearl was the result of stony growths called calcareous concretions.

In 2005, the Pearl of Asia was one of 12 rare pearls featured during a six-month exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History called “The Allure of Pearls.” Other specimens included La Peregrina, the Hope Pearl, the Drexel Pearl, the Black Beauty, the Pearl of Kuwait, the Queen Mary Brooch with two large natural pink conch pearls, the South Sea Drops, the Survival Pearl and the Paspaley Pearl.

Pearl is one of the two official birthstones for June. The other is alexandrite.

Credits: Images courtesy of Smithsonian/NMNH Photo Services.
June 1st, 2020
A marquise-cut, 12.11-carat, fancy intense blue diamond will be headlining Christie's first live auction since the COVID-19 outbreak. The internally flawless diamond is expected to fetch between $8.3 million and $12.2 million at Christie's Hong Kong on July 10, with previews running from July 4-7.



Flanked by two side stones and set on a diamond band, the stunning blue diamond is secured by six yellow gold prongs.

“Fancy Vivid” is the ultimate color classification for blue diamonds. Those displaying lower levels of color saturation may be rated “Fancy Intense,” “Fancy,” “Fancy Light” or “Light,” according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Blue diamonds owe their color to the presence of boron in the chemical makeup of the gem.

The Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels sale, which had originally been slated for June 2, signals a return to some normalcy for the famous auction house. Christie's had been promoting online auctions as a substitute for its high-profile onsite events.

In an article titled, “10 Jewels That Made History — and Changed the Market,” Christie's highlighted a 28.86-carat, emerald-cut diamond that will be offered at its Jewels Online sale, June 16-30. The D-color gem carries a high estimate of $2 million and is being touted as the highest-valued lot ever offered for sale online at Christie’s.

July's live auction will include four other high-profile lots...



• Posted with a high estimate of $1.2 million is a 6.06-carat ruby and diamond ring. The ruby is of Burmese origin and boasts the highly desirable "pigeon's blood" color. Surrounding the center stone are eight oval white diamonds and smaller pink stone accents.



• An exceptional jadeite bangle is expected to sell in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million.



• Two Kashmir sapphires are the stars of a diamond necklace that could yield as much as $1 million. The sapphires weigh 12.81 carats and 6.50 carats, respectively.



• These jadeite hoop and ruby earrings carry a high estimate of $748,000.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's.
May 29th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, pop star Katy Perry encourages young women to aspire to greatness in her 2010 ballad, "Pearl."



On her YouTube channel, Perry explained that "Pearl" is a song she wrote for anyone who's been held down — by friends, or relationships or family members.

"[The song] talks about a girl who used to be a pearl, and how she became a shell of herself," said Perry. "She let this person rule her world and she's kind of a skeleton now. Her rainbow is a flat shade of grey."

She added, "It's a really important message to send to be confident in who you are and your relationships. And to love yourself most importantly before anybody else loves you."

Perry sings, "Oh, she used to be a pearl / Yeah, she used to rule the world / Can't believe she's become a shell of herself / 'Cause she used to be a pearl."

Written by Perry, Greg Wells and Tricky Stewart, "Pearl" was the last song added to Perry's chart-topping Teenage Dream album.

Perry told MTV News that she felt that the nearly completed Teenage Dream was missing something, so she and her writing partners added one more tune that completed her album in just the right way.

"And it was kind of just like, 'All right, now I have this crown, and I have all these jewels, and I can put these little jewels into the crown, and I feel like it's a complete presentation, something I'm really proud of.'"

Teenage Dream was a tremendous success, charting in 28 countries, including #1 on the US Billboard 200 album chart and #1 on the Canadian Albums Chart. The album and its singles earned Perry seven Grammy Award nominations, including Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Record of the Year.

Born Katheryn Elizabeth “Katy” Hudson in Santa Barbara, Calif., the singer changed her name in the early 2000s so she wouldn’t be confused with actress Kate Hudson. The daughter of Christian pastor parents, Perry grew up singing in a church choir, where she developed an affection for gospel music. Perry was dropped by two record labels before going on to sign with Capitol Music Group in 2007.

Over the past decade, the 35-year-old Perry has become one of the most successful musical artists of all time, having sold more than 18 million albums and 125 million singles globally.

Trivia: Perry's "Pearl" may have been inspired by her "wonderful" paternal grandmother, Ann Pearl Hudson, who sadly passed away in March at the age of 99.

"When my fighter spirit comes out, that’s Ann," Perry wrote in an Instagram tribute.

Please check out the audio track of “Pearl.” The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Pearl"
Written by Katy Perry, Greg Wells and Tricky Stewart. Performed by Katy Perry.

She is a pyramid
But with him she's just a grain of sand
This love's too strong like mice and men
Squeezing out the life that should be let in

She was a hurricane (-cane, -cane, -cane)
But now she's just a gust of wind
She used to set the sails of a thousand ships
Was a force to be reckoned with

She could be a Statue of Liberty
She could be a Joan of Arc
But he's scared of the light that's inside of her
So he keeps her in the dark

Oh, she used to be a pearl
Yeah, she used to rule the world
Can't believe she's become a shell of herself
'Cause she used to be a pearl

She was unstoppable
Moved fast just like an avalanche
But now she's stuck deep in cement
Wishing that they'd never ever met

She could be a Statue of Liberty
She could be a Joan of Arc
But he's scared of the light that's inside of her
So he keeps her in the dark

Oh, she used to be a pearl
Yeah, she used to rule the world
Can't believe she's become a shell of herself
'Cause she used to be a—

Do you know that there's a way out,
There's a way out
There's a way out
There's a way out?

You don't have to be held down,
Be held down
Be held down
Be held down

'Cause I used to be a shell
Yeah, I let him rule my world, my world

But I woke up and grew strong
And I can still go on
And no one can take my pearl

You don't have to be a shell, no
You're the one that rules your world, oh
You are strong
And you'll learn that you can still go on

And you'll always be a—a pearl

She is unstoppable


Credit: Image by nikotransmission from Sammamish, WA, USAuploaded by C.Jonel / CC BY
May 28th, 2020
A San Francisco-based Greek restaurant chain, which had closed each of its eateries in strict adherence to the city's shelter-in-place order, made a special exception recently and opened one of its stores so a long-time regular could surprise his girlfriend with a proposal in the exact spot where their first date took place five years ago.



Sam Goldstein and Christa Simone are big fans of Souvla, a "fine-fast" restaurant chain specializing in spit-fired meats, Cali-fresh veggies, Greek wines and frozen yogurt in NYC coffee cups.

Goldstein told the dining guide site Eater SF that he had been contemplating a proposal long before the pandemic.

“I’m generally into big crowds," he told the site, "so I was trying to publicly embarrass Christa. But when the world shut down, that became increasingly hard.”

Goldstein's backup plan was to contact the principals of Souvla to see if he could set up a special proposal on the outdoor patio of the chain's NoPa location. That's where the couple's relationship blossomed as they dined on chicken salads and a bottle of rosé.



The love-struck young man was surprised when Souvla owner Charles Bililies quickly agreed to oblige. Not only did he open the shuttered restaurant for the couple, but also had a special sign made for the front window — “Come on in, Christa” — placed rose petals in the corridor leading to the patio and set up a table with sentimental photos, flowers and a bottle of wine.



On Saturday, Goldstein encouraged Simone to take a walk with him through the neighborhood, making sure Souvla was on their route. When the couple passed in front of the restaurant, Simone was surprised to see her name on the sign.



Bililies and his wife, Jen Pelka, greeted the couple and led them to the back patio, where Goldstein popped the question with a diamond ring and Simone said, "Yes."

“We were blown away by how incredibly generous and helpful Charles and Jen were,” Goldstein told Eater. “It just goes to show how kind people can be, even to complete strangers. It was one of those moments that restores your faith in humanity.”

Even though San Francisco allows restaurant take-out service, the Souvla chain has decided to remain closed through the shelter in place in an abundance of caution for the health and safety of its staff.

"We know San Francisco misses Souvla – we do too," the chain's representative told SFGATE. "We'll be reopening soon, in the safest way possible for our team and our guests. We hope everyone is staying happy and healthy, and we can't wait to see our customers again soon!"

Credits: Images courtesy of Souvla.
May 27th, 2020
Reservations were limited and visitors needed to bring their own tools, but the good news is that Arkansas' field of dreams — the Crater of Diamonds State Park — reopened on Friday, May 22, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.



The 37½-acre search field in Murfreesboro is actually the eroded surface of an ancient diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe. Treasure hunters test their luck at the only diamond site in the world that's open to the general public.



More than 29,000 diamonds have been found in the crater since it became a state park in 1972.

“We are pleased to be able to welcome people back to search for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds just in time for the Memorial Day weekend,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “It is one of the most popular destinations in our system of state parks, and we have had many questions from people who are anxious to again have the opportunity to find and keep their very own gem.”

Due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular tourist destination will be limiting attendance and enforcing some restrictions.

The number of daily visitors has been capped at 500, and all of those tickets may be booked online. Be sure to check this site for ticket availability. It's very likely that the daily tickets will be sold-out and walk-up tickets will be unavailable.

Visitors are encouraged to bring their own diamond mining tools, because there are no rentals at this time. Even though prospectors have found plenty of gems on top of the soil, most diamond hunters like to do a little digging. They use a range of simple tools, from small flowerbed trowels to full-size shovels. Some bring their own sifting screens.

The park staff provides complementary identification and registration of diamonds found at the park.



Face coverings will be required for all persons present in the Visitor Center, Diamond Discovery Center, North & South Sluice Pavilions and all four sun shelters. Children under the age of 10 are not required to wear face coverings. Hand sanitizer will be available for guests in the Visitor Center.

To keep a safe distance in the search field, guests/associated groups will be asked to keep a 12-foot distance between other guests/associated groups, unless they are wearing face coverings.

The mining area is now open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Visitor Center closes at 5 p.m. Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $6 for children 6-12, and kids under 6 get to search for free.

In an average year, amateur diamond hunters will find more than 600 diamonds in all sizes, colors and grades.

In 1990, Shirley Strawn discovered a 3.03-carat diamond near the East Drain section of the park. That rough gem was transformed into a world-class, 1.09-carat round brilliant-cut sparkler, and became the first diamond from the Arkansas state park to earn a perfect grade of “Triple Zero” (Ideal cut/D color/Flawless) from the American Gem Society.

The find was so momentous that the State of Arkansas purchased the diamond, now known as the “Strawn-Wagner” diamond, for $34,700 and made it the centerpiece of the park’s special exhibit. There’s even a prominent marker in the East Drain section of the park to show exactly where it was found.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Arkansas State Parks.
May 26th, 2020
The Washington Nationals unveiled the design of their 2019 World Series rings during a video presentation on Sunday night. Featuring 257 gemstones weighing a total of 23.20 carats, the 14-karat white and yellow gold rings document the team's unlikely road to the championship after starting the season with a 19-31 record.



The team had been enduring a miserable slump when outfielder Gerardo Parra chose "Baby Shark" as his walk-up song. Parra picked the popular children's song because his two-year-old daughter loved it, and so did the fans. The adorable tune — "Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo"— had a way of galvanizing the energy in the stadium and the players used that energy to finish the season 96-69.



As a nod to the song that helped to turn their season around, the Nationals asked ring designer Jostens to include a baby shark holding a yellow gold trophy on the inside of the band. To the right of the shark are the team logos of each of the opponents the Nationals defeated during their postseason journey, along with the results of each series.

The rest of the ring is brimming with symbolism, as well.

The ring top features the team's "W" logo, crafted from 30 custom-cut genuine rubies framed in yellow gold. The number 30 was chosen because that's how many runs the team scored in the four World Series games in which they were victorious.

The logo overlays a ground of 58 pavé-set diamonds, and is circled with the words WORLD CHAMPIONS and 32 custom-cut genuine sapphires. The  number 32 represents the sum total of the team's 2019 walk-off wins (7), shutout wins (13), longest winning streak (8 games), and playoff rounds won (4).

An additional 108 diamonds are featured along the ring top, representing the number of regular season and postseason wins (105), plus one diamond for the World Series Championship, and an additional two diamonds as a nod to the duality of the franchise's history. The Washington Nationals originated as the Montréal Expos. The top and bottom edges of the ring top each feature 12 princess-cut rubies, representing the total number of postseason wins.



On the left side of the ring in raised yellow gold is the player's name. Beneath the player name, also in yellow gold, is the nation's flag waving majestically, along with the 2019 championship year date.

In the foreground, in contrasting white gold, are some of the U.S. capitol's most iconic buildings and monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Capitol building and Jefferson Memorial. The bottom of the ring's left side serves to display the player's number, set in diamonds.

During the postseason, the team's motto was "Stay in the fight." The evolution of that motto is featured on the right side of the ring: "Fight Finished." Below, the stripes of the American flag fill the sky above Nationals Park behind the coveted Commissioner's Trophy, complete with the Nationals wordmark logo.

Also appearing on the right side are four diamonds set upon a star base, as well as a custom-cut, star-shaped ruby. The five stars represent the incredible five elimination games won by the Nationals in the postseason. The four diamonds on the stars represent the four previous National League East titles earned by the Nationals, while the red star signifies their World Series Championship.

The team's mantra of "Go 1-0 Everyday," appears along the ring palm.

In all, the ring features 170 round diamonds (4.20 carats), 31 custom-cut rubies and 24 princess-cut rubies (7.25 carats) and 32 custom-cut genuine sapphires (11.75 carats).

The team voted to receive their rings when they can be physically united. The Nationals had originally planned to host a ring ceremony before the team's second home game on April 4, but the season has been delayed due to the coronavirus.

Credits: Images courtesy of Jostens.
May 22nd, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you wonderful tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Philadelphia R&B legends Boyz II Men sing about a long-lost love in their 2014 release, “Diamond Eyes.”



In this power ballad about a man longing to be reunited with the dream girl of his past, the soulful singers croon, “And then the sun rose, our bodies unfroze / And it turned us both gold / Your diamond eyes glowed, yeah.”

Songwriter Coley O'Toole uses the precious metal reference to symbolize the innocent and exciting “goldenness” of youth, an idea first invoked in the 1923 Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay." Her diamond eyes connote strength, brilliance and perfection. In the end, the song's protagonist says he will never lose hope that she will be found.

"Diamond Eyes" was the first single released from the group's 12th studio album, Collide. The album reached #6 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and #37 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart.

The four-time Grammy-winning act, which features the sweet harmonies of long-time members Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris and Nathan Morris, has sold more than 60 million recordings and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012. The group was named by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) as the most commercially successful R&B group of all time.

Originally known as Unique Attraction, Boyz II Men was founded in 1985 by friends Nathan Morris and Marc Nelson at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. The original group often rehearsed in a school bathroom due to its excellent acoustics.

By the early 1990s, Boyz II Men earned international fame with a series of Top 5 releases, including "Motownphilly" and "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday." The group originated as a quartet, but became a trio when Michael McCary had to leave the group in 2003 due to multiple sclerosis.

In 2017, a section of Broad Street in Philadelphia was renamed “Boyz II Men Boulevard.” That section of Broad Street happens to be the home of the high school where the boys got their start.

Check out the audio clip of Boyz II Men performing “Diamond Eyes.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along...

“Diamond Eyes”
Written by Coley O'Toole. Performed by Boyz II Men.

When we were young, our hearts were strong,
And they beat as one, till the day had come
When I thought that you were gone

And then the sun rose, our bodies unfroze
And it turned us both gold
Your diamond eyes glowed, yeah, ohhhhh

When we were young, our love was strong
We beat as one, till the day had come,
And I thought that you were gone

And then the sun rose, our bodies unfroze
And it turned us both gold
Your diamond eyes glowed, yeah

I would search near and far
Drag the seas and mine the dark,
Search through every place I think you are
I would search near and far
Drag the seas and mine the dark
And never losing hope that you be found, ohhhh

And then the sun rose, our bodies unfroze
And it turned us both gold
Your diamond eyes glowed, yea,
your diamond eyes glowed,
your diamond eyes glowed,
your diamond eyes glowed, ohhhh


Credit: Image by Lunchbox LP from Culver City, CA, USA / CC BY.
May 21st, 2020
Be prepared to be blown away by the next stop on our virtual tour of the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection. Featured today is an amazing topaz exhibit featuring four stones ranging in size from 12,555 carats to 251,744 carats.



Previous stops on the tour have included the Logan Sapphire, the Dom Pedro aquamarine and the Steamboat tourmaline.

The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals typically hosts more than six million visitors annually. But with all the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, we're offering this virtual tour of the hall.



Here's how to navigate to the topaz exhibit.

— First, click on this link… The resulting page will be a gallery called “Geology, Gems & Minerals: Precious Gems 1.” The topaz showcase contains two mammoth crystals and two smaller faceted gems.

(Touch the plus sign to zoom in. Touch the “X” to close the map to get a better view of the gemstones. You may restore the map by clicking the “Second” floor navigation on the top-right of the screen.)



All of the gems in the showcase were sourced in Minas Gerais, Brazil, but the most famous of the four specimens is the colossal cushion-cut American Golden Topaz, the third-largest faceted gemstone in the world. The stone is seen, above, just in front of the little girl.

Tipping the scales at a whopping 22,892 carats (10.09 lbs), the American Golden Topaz was cut by Leon Agee over a period of two years in the late 1980s from a 26-pound stream-rounded cobble owned by Drs. Marie L. and Edgar F. Borgatta.

The final product has 172 facets, a warm honey-gold color and is the size of a honeydew melon, measuring 6.9 x 5.9 x 3.7 inches. The gem was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1988.

The tallest stones in the case are the 251,744-carat (111 lbs) Freeman Uncut Topaz and the 158,757-carat (70 lbs) Lindsay Uncut Topaz.



Positioned behind the American Golden Topaz is the fascinating Topaz Sphere, which weighs 12,555-carats (5.54 lbs).

Natural topaz is found in a wide array of warm colors, including brownish-yellow, orange-yellow and reddish-brown. Other topaz colors include white, pale green, blue, gold and pink.

Credits: Photos by Chip Clark/Smithsonian. Virtual tour screen capture via naturalhistory2.si.edu.