100 Years – 100 Objects: Smithsonite

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Joel, the Museum’s President and Curator of Gems and Minerals. He’s chosen spectacular objects from the Museum’s mineralogy collection, which includes some of the most rare and fascinating mineral specimens in the world, that we’ll be sharing here – and on hmns.org – throughout the year.

Tsumeb Mine, Tsumeb, Namibia.

Among the most beautiful of all smithsonite specimens found anywhere in the world are the apple-green to emerald-green crystals from Tsumeb. The color comes from trace amounts of copper and is so distinctive that cuprian smithsonite from Tsumeb was, for a time, given its own name, “herrerite” (named for the local Herrero tribe) before it was proven to be a variety of smithsonite.

The extraordinary 8.1-cm example pictured here is perhaps the finest known example of the variety, showing deep color, unusual transparency, brilliant luster, interesting crystal shape, and a fine, large grouping of crystals.

Marvel at the world’s most spectacular collection of natural mineral crystals in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see larger and more detailed images of this rare specimen – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the photo gallery on hmns.org.

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