100 Years – 100 Objects: Rhodochrosite

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.

Sweet Home Mine near Alma, Colorado.

The superb 10-cm rhodochrosite crystal on matrix pictured here, known as “The Alma Queen,” is among the most famous specimens in all of mineralogy. It is the best specimen recovered from a pocket found in 1965 by John Soules and Warren Good. The exceptionally large, rich red-colored crystals perched on a crystallized matrix of quartz and tetrahedrite combine to create a level of sculptural composition and aesthetic beauty that make this one of the world’s truly great mineral specimens. Since its discovery, it has attained legendary status as a “Mona Lisa” of the mineral world – it is widely regarded as the finest example of rhodochrosite known – and among knowledgeable collectors and connoisseurs, it is considered to be the finest mineral specimen of any kind ever found.

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.

On the Ninth Day of HMNS…Peer into the Vault

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is known all over the world for our spectacular collection of minerals – the Dragon, the Alma Queen, the little pink snowball (OK, that one isn’t particularly famous as far as I know – it just happens to be my favorite.) It’s an incredibly vibrant display of the wonders nature is capable of.

In 2006, we upped the ante with the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault. Meant to augment the already stellar collection of natural mineral crystals, the Gem Vault presents cut minerals – gemstones – some of which are simply enormous examples of the finest gems from around the world while others are set in spectacular jewelry. All are presented in an actual vault environment, lit so that they appear to be floating mid-air.

In short – it’s magnificent, and not to be missed. In the video below, HMNS President and Curator of Gems and Minerals Joel A. Bartsch takes us through the Vault – from the inspiration for creating this marvelous exhibit to the fascinating stories behind the pieces on display.

The Smith Gem Vault is just one of the fun and fascinating options for families at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. In a take-off of everyone’s favorite holiday classic, The 12 Days of Christmas, we’ve got 12 ideas for fabulous family fun this holiday and we’ll be sharing the possibilities here every day until Christmas Eve. Best of all, most are activities that last past the holiday season – some, year round. You can also check them all out now at the spiffy new 12 Days of HMNS web site.

Check out the first eight days of HMNS:
On the first day of HMNS, explore The Birth of Christianity.
On the second day of HMNS, shop for Sci-tastic gifts.
On the third day of HMNS, meet Prancer the reindeer.
On the fourth day of HMNS, discover the making of The Star of Bethlehem.
On the fifth day, move it, move it with Madagascar 2 in the Wortham IMAX Theatre.
On the sixth day, hunt dinosaurs with Dr. Bob Bakker.
On the seventh day, look inside the human body in BODY WORLDS 2.
On the eighth day, meet the HMNS Entomologists.