Gems are objects of wealth, icons of beauty, and emblems of the very best of everything. They are kept as signs of prestige or power. Given as tokens of love and affection, they also come in a kaleidoscopic array of hues and can be either mineral or organic. Gems can command a person's gaze in the way they play with light and express rich color. And they can evoke feelings of passion, greed, mystery, and warmth. For millennia, gems have played an important role in human culture: they have significant value, both financially and within folklore and mythology. But just whataregems, exactly? This lavishly illustrated volumethe most ambitious publication of its kindprovides a general introduction to gems and natural gemstones, conveying their timeless beauty and exploring similarities among different species and varieties.Gems and Gemstonesfeatures nearly 300 color images of the cut gems, precious and semiprecious stones, gem-quality mineral specimens, and fine jewelry to be unveiled in a new Grainger Hall of Gems at The Field Museum in Chicago this October. The book and exhibition's overarching theme will be the relationship between finished gems and their natural origin: while beautiful as faceted and polished pieces of jewelry, gems are often just as lovelyor even more soas gemstones in their natural state. For example, an aquamarine or emerald as originally found in a mine with its natural crystal faces can be as stunning as any cut and polished gem prepared for a ring, bracelet, or charm. Thoughtful of both ancient and modern times,Gems and Gemstonesalso includes fun-filled facts and anecdotes that broaden the historical portrait of each specimen. When Harry Winston, for instance, donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian in 1958, he sent it through the U.S. mail wrapped in plain brown paper. And for anyone who has ever marveled at the innovations of top jewelry designers,Gems and Gemstonesfeatures a dazzling array of polished stones, gold objects, and creations from around the world. Diamonds, sapphires, rubies, amethysts, pearls, topaz, amberevery major gem gets its due in what will be an invaluable source on the subject for years to come.
Lance Grande is senior vice president and head of collections and research at The Field Museum. He is a curator in the geology department and a general content specialist for The Field’s new Grainger Hall of Gems exhibit. He is also a member of the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago and is an adjunct professor of biology at the University of Illinois. Allison Augustyn, a funding specialist at The Field Museum, was previously an exhibition developer there, where she prepared such exhibits as The Ancient Americas, George Washington Carver, and The Grainger Hall of Gems.