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Gems and Minerals Collections

The Field Museum houses over 36,500 gem, mineral and rock specimens.  But first, what are rocks, minerals and gemstones?  Minerals are defined as naturally occuring solids formed through geologic processes containing a set chemical composition.  Rocks are aggregates of minerals, they can contain many different types of minerals.  Gemstones are minerals that are cut, polished and used for personal adornment, i.e. jewelry. 

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The Field Museum houses over 36,500 gem, mineral and rock specimens.  But first, what are rocks, minerals and gemstones?  Minerals are defined as naturally occuring solids formed through geologic processes containing a set chemical composition.  Rocks are aggregates of minerals, they can contain many different types of minerals.  Gemstones are minerals that are cut, polished and used for personal adornment, i.e. jewelry. 

Of the Field Museum's large physical geology collection, only 3% is on display.  The remainder of the collection is used as a reference collection, available to researchers around the world.  The Geology collection at the Field Museum is broken down into sub-collections.  The Mineral collection which contain minerals in their natural state (unaltered by humans), these can be minerals in their crystal form, crystal forms in surrounding matrix and powdered form used for standards in scientific study.  Another aspect of the mineral collection is the museum's lapidary art collection.  These include objects that are carved out of minerals, i.e. statues, bowls.  The museum's rock collection contains representative examples of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks.  This collection also contains the Economic Geology specimens that are used by humans for everything but personal adornment, i.e. coal.  The Gem collection contains specimens used for personal adornment.  These include loose, faceted stones, precious metals as well as the jewelry containg the stones and the metals. Experience the Field Museum's Gem exhibit, the Grainger Hall of Gems, on you iPad!

FMNH H2318 FMNH H2531 FMNH H447
Emerald crystals on mica "Blaze" 97.45 ct. imperial topaz "sun-god opal"

 

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Collections

Collections of clays from the valleys of Peru and Chile help us understand ceramic production and economy among the early states of the Andes.
Collections of Basalts, Andesites, and Rhyolites from the Lake Titicaca Basin allow us to identify the source quaries for artifacts and architecture at regional archaeological sites dating to the Middle Horizon.
Our collection of clays and other ceramic raw materials from the Sepik coast of northern Papua New Guinea helps us understand the history of potting and exchange networks in the western Pacific.
Our growing collection of obsidian from sources in the Mountain West allow us to identify the geological origin of obsidian artifacts housed in our collections, as well as those acquired during ongoing archaeological research projects.