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Natural History Museum:
8 Great Stops Continued ...



   


    Photo
The Hope Diamond. (By Chip Clark/Courtesy NMNH)
Directly above the dinos, on the second floor, is the highly popular Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, home of the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond. "This is the kind of thing that one often hopes one would see at the National Museum – cutting edge, the best," says Krantz. "It's really an outstanding exhibit. It has exquisite gems, beautiful illustrations, a nice flow, a very educational mine exhibit and good stuff on current theories and ideas about the development of Earth."

While Alan Cutler thinks the Hope Diamond itself is "boring," the hall in its entirety is "fantastic and beautifully" displayed. "I've wandered around the exhibit a few times since it opened and I have yet to exhaust its marvels," he says. "Kind of makes you proud to live on Earth."

Photo
The Star of Asia. (By Chip Clark/Courtesy NMNH)
   
2 Dazzling gems fill the entrance area. The 330-carat Star of Asia Sapphire, for example, is a blue sapphire with strong, perfectly defined rays. If the prism of this stone were cut horizontally, each slice would contain a perfectly formed star. Some pieces in the collection also have wonderful historic qualities in addition to their rare beauty, like the magnificent tiara and necklace that were gifts from Emperor Napoleon to his wife, Marie Louise.

Gems are only a small part of the collection. Beyond them await other treasures. Meteors that have bombarded the planet for millions of years may be found here, as well as strange and fascinating mineral formations from the bowels of Earth. There are also moon rocks collected during various Apollo missions, which are older than most rocks on Earth.

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The Minerals and Gem Gallery. (By Chip Clark/Courtesy NMNH)
   
Suzanne Woolsey, chief operating officer at the National Academy of Sciences, has a novel approach to the hall, suggesting people start at the exit. This way they will see how Earth developed, and the process by which gems and minerals are formed before actually seeing the priceless treasures at the hall's entrance. "It makes it much more interesting," she says. It's also a way to avoid the short line that sometimes forms in front of the exhibit on weekends.

Entering the way Woolsey suggests, visitors will immediately come upon a small vial of micro-diamonds that are the remains of inter-stellar dust predating the formation of the solar system. "To me, this is far more compelling than the Hope," says Cutler.

   
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