Diamonds and Gems Review - A Dazzling Duo Opens at the Field Museum

Watching the presentation, Jane A Neil School,(CPS) fourth graders are captivated

It was difficult to distinguish who was most enjoying the press opening of the two new exhibits at the Field Museum, The Nature of Diamonds, October 23, 2009 through March 28, 2010, and The Grainger Hall of Gems, a re-opening of a favorite permanent exhibit, also opening October 23, 2009.  Was it John McCarter, President and CEO, The Field Museum, who made the introductions,the fourth graders from Chicago Public School’s Jane A. Neil School, (the “crown jewels” of the exhibit), who seemed awed, the lovely models who clearly enjoyed donning the beautiful jewelry they were displaying, the staff who finally realized their efforts, the photographers having a “field” day, or everyone else watching?  Everyone was enjoying themselves.

With lovely models behind him, John McCarter, President and CEO, The Field Museum, shares remarks about the exhibit

The Nature of Diamonds exhibit was organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York in collaboration with The Field Museum, Chicago; the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; and the Houston Museum of Natural Science with a result that is captivating, surprising, and tells more about diamonds than you thought you wanted to know, or as my companion said,  “It was educational and amazing”.

Learning about the creation of diamonds

That so many aspects of diamond, an extraordinary mineral, were revealed in this exhibit surprised me.  These aspects ranged from the geological origins to its place in history, art, and adornment to its uses in modern technology and research.  This large exhibit, fillis 7,000 square feet with one fascinating case after the next. I was awed by the diamond worn by actress, Audrey Hepburn, in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, one of the world’s largest and finest fancy yellow diamonds and the “Incomparable Diamond” which is gold colored and kite shaped, and graded flawless by the Gemological Institute of America and much more wondering through the displays.

Just look, there is the diamond Audrey Hepburn wore in "Breakfast at Tiffany's", one of the world's largest and finest fancy yellow diamonds

There was great informatin about the “Four C’s” of diamonds; cut, carat, color and clarity. In addition, there was information on conflict or “blood diamonds”.  The way in which diamond is uniquely suited to application in science and technology along with recent breakthroughs in synthetic diamonds is another aspect. Diamonds uses were demonstrated in the displays of diamond saws, oil-well drills and implements to cut marble countertops and automobile parts. I was fascinated to learn that scientific and industrial use of diamonds is very important because of their hardness, their ability to withstand extremely high temperatures and corrosive conditions and resistance to becoming wet all of which make them invaluable for use in this world and out of it, even providing diamond bits to drill the surface of Mars for sample collection.  Displays show that future of diamonds in technology and industry is boundless and intriguing.  As for the jewelry, just come and enjoy before this exhibit moves on. The Grainger Foundation is the exclusive sponsor of The Nature of Diamonds and made both exhibitions possible.

Marie de Medici (1573-1642) wearing bodice ornament set with diamonds and pearls-diamonds also sewn into her dress and adorn her hair

More impressive in person, this Milky Way necklace has 2,000 diamonds (67.96 carats) suspended in a platinum grid

On visits to the Field Museum when I was young and when my children were young, a stop to see the Grainger Hall of Gems was a must. Newly renovated, The Hall of Gems, a permanent exhibit, re-opens in conjunction with The Nature of Diamonds exhibit.  It was pleasant to walk through the exhibit and note the changes.  In each display case one can see the gemstones as they are found in nature, then as a cut and polished gem and finally as exquisite jewelry created by top designers that include: Ellie Thompson, Lester Lampert, Oak Park Jewelers,Marc Scherer, Mish New York and Jean Schlumberger. There are some pieces that have never been seen before and others that are part of the Museum’s original collection, dating to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Natural ruby crystals

Grainger Hall of Gems is offering something new and completely different – a unique way to propose marriage.  Renovations to the gallery included a dedicated case that was installed with lighting designed to showcase a diamond ring.  Engagement rings will be placed in the case and sit on a small cream colored stand on the day of proposal accompanied by a card with a personal message.
The Special Events department is prepared to coordinate timing, signing of waiver, fees and opening/closing of case and serve champagne for a toast for a $350 fee.  How special is that? (Special Events at 312.665.7600 or email

The Field Museum is located at 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive. Visitors can get to the Museum via CTA bus lines #6 and #146, or by taking the Metra electric and South Shore train lines. Indoor parking is available just steps from the Museum’s main entrance. For more travel information, call the Illinois Department of Transportation, 312.368.4636, or the RTA Travel Center Hotline, 312.836.7000.

Tanzanite Necklace-One thousand times rarer than diamond and found only in Tanzania and Kenya

Emerald necklace shows emerald as jewelry

The Field Museum is open 9am – 5pm every day excepting Christmas.

Some discounts are available for Chicago residents. Visit or call 866.FIELD.03

Tiffany Art Deco Necklace

Diamond and platinum necklace

Photos: Courtesy of Field Museum and Barbara Keer

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