New Hall at the Peabody Museum Sparkles and Shines

A new exhibition featuring an array of gemstones, minerals and ores — including one of the finest gemstones ever discovered in North America —  opens on Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

The mineral hall is the final stage of the museum’s new Hall of Minerals, Earth and Space (HoMES), and its completion launches a grand-opening celebration and full day of activities related to gems, minerals and geology, also being held on Nov. 15.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are 20 diamond rings, brooches and necklaces illustrating different styles of gem cutting, and suites of uncut rubies and sapphires from around the world. The jewelry is on loan from the Benjamin and Barbara Zucker Family Collection. The uncut specimens are gifts to the Peabody Museum mineral collection, some donated by the Zuckers and others by Cap Beesley, president and founder of the American Gemological Laboratories.

Benjamin Zucker, a 1962 graduate of Yale College, is a third-generation gem merchant. He is known among colleagues as “Lord of the Rings” for his passion and quest for antique rings, and he is considered to have the best collection of them in America. In conjunction with the exhibit, Zucker will give a free talk on “The Gemstones of Yale” on Thursday, Nov. 20, at 5:30 p.m. at the Peabody Museum. He will address the early connections between gems and Yale, including the fortune Elihu Yale made in the diamond trade, as well as the evolution of the diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire trades.

The exhibition’s suite of emeralds from North Carolina include an eight-carat faceted emerald, considered the most spectacular gemstone ever found in the United States. A 900-carat crystal, on loan from the Houston Museum of Natural Science, is also on view; this one is considered to be one of the best gems ever discovered in North America. Among the other gems on view is a crystal that was a gift to Yale by William Earl Hidden, developer of the Hiddenite, North Carolina site that was the first emerald mine in the United States. Discovered in 1881, the Yale crystal is one of the earliest found in the mine.

The HoMES exhibit also showcases the Peabody’s world-renowned mineral collection. Specimens on view include hundreds of minerals from around the world, many of which have never been displayed. These include opals from Ethiopia, sapphires from Sri Lanka, topaz from Japan, cryolite from Greenland and gold from Nevada. A rare silver specimen from Norway that was collected in the late 1700s is among the highlights of the minerals on view.

A special section on Connecticut geology features minerals from mining areas that no longer exist. These include rare crystals of chalcocite and bornite from the Bristol Copper Mine; a group of barite crystals from Cheshire weighing over 350 pounds; and a large crystal of chrysoberyl from Haddam. There are also specimens of scheelite from Old Mine Park in Trumbull.

A geologic history of New England is also offered in HoMES. A large interactive map of the state depicts the roots of ancient volcanoes and earthquake faults as well as other sites of interest, such as the active Moodus earthquake zone. Visitors can learn about radioactivity and fluorescence and, using an interactive kiosk, find out how minerals form and grow, why crystals have varying shapes and colors, and how to identify minerals on hikes and outdoor trips.

A permanent exhibition, HoMES was curated by Jay Ague, professor of geology and geophysics at Yale and curator of mineralogy at the Peabody Museum. He is currently acting director of the museum.

HoMES celebration

The opening day celebration for HoMES will take place 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Activities running throughout the day until 4 p.m. include gem cutting, rock polishing, geode cracking, a scavenger hut, games and crafts. A Roxi Fox puppet show will take place at 10:15 a.m. and again at 11:30 a.m.

The exhibition will be open for viewing that day until 5 p.m.

All events are free with general admission. The cost of museum admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children ages 3-18. Children under age three are free, as are museum members and individuals with a Yale I.D. All visitors are welcome for free 2-5 p.m. on Thursdays.

The Peabody Museum of Natural History is located at 170 Whitney Ave. The HoMES exhibit can be viewed during normal museum hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, noon-5 p.m. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving, Dec. 24, 25 and 31, and on Jan. 1.

For further information, visit www.peabody.yale.edu or call (203) 432-5050.

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