View the Collections | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Left to right: Spessartine garnet - Ramona, California; Indicolite tourmaline - Minas Gerais, Brazil; Emerald with apatite - Penas Blancas mine, Colombia; Gold - Colorado Quartz mine, Mariposa Co., California
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Mineral Sciences Contact Information

Gem & Mineral Council
(213) 763-3326
gmc@nhm.org

General Inquiries
(213) 763-3328
akampf@nhm.org

Collections Information; Meteorites
(213) 763-3327
amorgan@nhm.org

Fax: (213) 749-4107

Gem and Mineral Hall

The 6,000-square-foot Gem and Mineral Hall was opened in May of 1978. Another 1,500 square-foot gallery titled Gemstones and their Origins was added in May of 1985. Together they comprise one of the finest exhibits of gems and minerals in the world. In 1989, Los Angeles magazine rated it as the finest permanent museum exhibition of any kind in the Los Angeles area.

The Gem & Mineral Council

The Gem & Mineral Council is a support organization for the Gem & Mineral Collection and Exhibit. It also supports the research on new minerals and on diamonds, which enables unveiling the secrets of the Deep Earth.

The Gem & Mineral Council provides a varied schedule of activities including exciting field trips, educational lectures, and exclusive social events. To learn more about The Gem & Mineral Council and how you can become a member, visit The Gem & Mineral Council webpage.

 

Collection Information

The Mineral Sciences collections include minerals, rocks, meteorites, gems, and related synthetic materials. In overall significance the mineral collection probably ranks fourth in the United States and it is the most important west of Washington, D.C. The gem collection ranks third in the country after those at the National Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History. The mineral collection is world-wide in scope and boasts particular strengths in minerals from California, native gold, and gem crystals. The collections are being actively augmented principally through purchases and donations.

Benitoite: rough and cut; from the Benitoite Mine in San Benito County, California. The benitoite wreath is one of the iconic pieces of the NHMLA Mineral collection. The cut stone weighs 6.01 carats. Both are on display in the Gem Vault. Photo by R. Weldon; copyright: GIA, courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

 

Size: There are approximately 150,000 specimens, including more than 140,000 minerals, nearly 100,000 of which are micromounts, 3,000 rocks, 3,000 gems, and 50 meteorites. Approximately half of all known mineral species are represented in the collections.

Geographic coverage: The collection is worldwide in scope, with a specialization in California.

Accession and loan policy: Collection materials are acquired through purchase, donation, and exchange. Exchanges are transacted only with other institutions, not with private individuals or dealers. Loans are available for exhibition or scientific research to appropriate organizations and institutions.

Computerization: Because of rapid collection growth in recent years only about 30% of the specimens in the department's holdings are computerized.

Brief history: In the early years, the collection grew primarily through the donation of numerous small collections. The most important of these was from the Los Angeles Chamber of Mines and Oils (1921) and included many fine specimens from Bisbee, Arizona. A stronger commitment to building the mineral sciences collection began in the 1970s resulting in a rapid growth of the collection through donations and purchases. The most significant mineral collections received in recent years have been those of Mark and Jean Bandy (1977-1980), Ben Chromy (1985), George Tunell (1989 and 1994), Jessie Hardman (2000), Julius Weber and Louis Perloff (2005), and Ben Frankenberg (2006). In recent years, numerous donations of high-quality display specimens by Mr. and Mrs. Hyman Savinar and Mr. Melvin S. Hindin have greatly enhanced the collection. The gem collection was initiated through a series of gifts between 1953 and 1961 from a Los Angeles jeweler, William E. Phillips. Major collections from Col. Frederick C. Hixon (1971-1977) and John Jago Trelawney (1988) elevated the Museum's gem collection to world-class stature.

 

Virtual tour of the collection: GIA provided us with a magnificent tour of the collection. Click here to go to the webpage.

Amethyst from Santa Margarita, Guerrero, Mexico. Photo by R. Weldon; copyright: GIA, courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.