The 6,000-square-foot Gem and Mineral Hall was opened in May of 1978 and is one of the finest permanent museum exhibitions of any kind in the Los Angeles area.
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.
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.