.Author: Paul Pohwat
Illustrations by: Jeff Scovil, Michael Bainbridge, Robert Weldon, Jenni Brammall, Wimon Manorotkul, Tino Hammid
As though fundamental to the human experience, gemstones are universally familiar. No less fascinating, natural crystals likewise resonate with those who encounter them. Exactly when people first realized that shaping and polishing minerals could enhance the color, clarity, and brilliance of stones is unknown, but as evidenced by finds in archeological digs around the world, the lapidary arts took hold early, so much so that today natural crystals are culturally far less prevalent than are their shaped and polished counterparts.
The minerals of choice for ornamental use tended to be brilliantly colored and are hard enough to resist wear. But as the number of mineral species known has grown, so too has the number of species that have been fashioned into gemstones. Modern faceters push the limits, working exotic and rare minerals; some flaunt hardness rules and coax beautiful gemstones out of such “softies” as rhodochrosite and fluorapatite. Collectors are by and large aware that gemstones are faceted from an astonishing variety of minerals, but to those outside the collecting community, gemstones made from non-traditional minerals are unknown; in fact, many people do not even realize that natural gemstones are cut from naturally occurring crystals.
The educational value of displaying rough and cut examples of minerals was a prime consideration when the staff at the Smithsonian Institution was planning the new Geology, Gems, and Minerals Hall. Knowing that only a small percentage of the museum’s visitors enter the hall understanding the connection between crystals and faceted gemstones, we take pride in seeing people cluster around the rough and cut displays and walk away knowing that emerald and aquamarine are color varieties of beryl and so are heliodor and morganite—gemstones that they never knew existed.
The rough and cut groups in this calendar depict a range of minerals from favorites such as diamond and opal to rarities such as rossmanite and väyrynenite. Our photographers have paired exceptional gemstones with equally fine specimens, most of which can hardly be called “rough.” In truth, high-quality, euhedral, natural crystals are generally too valuable on the collector market to be cut; faceters instead typically find gemstones hidden inside partial or broken crystals. The “Rough and Cut” on these pages pair Nature’s jewels with those made by man and showcase the brilliance of each.
The calendar is published by Lithographie, LLC in cooperation with The Mineralogical Society of America. .