Diamond Life

The Smithsonian Museum's Splendor of Diamonds

by Jennifer Shapira
Published on July 3, 2003, 12:00am | Comments

Call it a rainbow flag connection, but feast your eyes on these earthly wonders.

The Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History's Splendor of Diamonds brings together for the first time seven of nature's rarest beauties. You could say these gems are keeping the Hope Diamond company, cushioned in the vault-like Harry Winston Gallery, but these spectacular sparklers need no accompaniment -- just the swanlike neck of actress Jenna Elfman.


Diamonds are a girl's best friend, gushed the stilleto-heeled Elfman, on hand at the unveiling of the exhibit and sporting the Steinmetz Pink -- a breathtaking, rose-tinted 59.60-carat rock.

The idea for the exhibit emerged from a lunchtime chat, when curator Jeffrey Post mused with a friend about his desire for the public to see some of the world's most exotic diamonds. For the most part, the highest-caliber stones are "found, cut and sold, " Post said. "They go into private collections and the world never even knows they exist. "  


Here's your chance. There's the De Beers Millennium Star, colorless, flawless and the weightiest at 203.04 carats. There's the fancy vivid yellow Allnat, a square dazzler at 101.29 carats. The 5.11-carat Moussaieff, the largest known fancy red, sits on display thanks to the Brazilian farmer who stumbled upon it a decade ago. The fancy vivid blue Heart of Eternity was mined in South Africa. The deep blue-green Ocean Dream is a delectable piece of eye candy. And visitors may recognize the 5.54-carat Pumpkin Diamond -- Halle Berry wore this round orange confection when accepting her Oscar for Best Actress.

"To understand the rarity of these diamonds takes a point of reference, " said John M. King, Laboratory Projects Officer charged with grading finished cut stones at the Gemological Institute of America. The vivid colors result from impurities that find their way into the stones during formation.

"Diamonds occur in all shades of the spectrum, " King marveled. "Yellow, blue, pink, red, orange. It's all in how the stars line up. "

The Splendor of Diamonds is on view at the Museum of Natural History, 10th and Constitution NW, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. through September 15. Call 202-357-2700.