Smithsonian Unveils the Foxfire Diamond at an Intimate Dinner

The National Museum of Natural History will host the 187.63 ct. gem for three months

There aren’t many things in this world capable of upstaging the Hope diamond.

But at a dinner party Wednesday night in the Harry Winston Gallery, inside the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., I watched many a partygoer sidestep the iconic 45.52 ct. blue diamond, glittering in its case with the brilliance of a star, without so much as a glance.

But it made perfect sense. We were gathered inside the museum’s stately National Gem and Mineral Collection to feast our eyes on something much, much bigger: the 187.63 ct. Foxfire—the largest known uncut, gem-quality diamond mined in North America.

The massive diamond was unearthed in 2015 in the frozen, unforgiving crust of the Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories, approximately 130 miles from the Arctic Circle.

Its name was inspired by the aboriginal description of the region’s northern lights, which imagines the Arctic sky illuminated by the brush of a northern fox’s tail.

The gemstone was revealed to the public at the National Museum of Natural History this morning with a small ceremony in the Harry Winston Gallery. It will be on display for three months—through Feb. 16, 2017

The diamond was acquired in an international auction by Deepak Sheth of Amadena Investments LLC/Excellent Facets Inc.—which hosted last night’s fete—in June of this year.

Sheth and Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection, walked the slightly phosphorescent Foxfire around on a black tray, table to table, to give us a close-up view of the roughly 2 billion–year-old gem. Naturally, we all gasped when we laid eyes on it (and took plenty of phone snapshots).

Dinner guests were treated to a close-up of the Foxfire

“We are deeply honored to have been invited to exhibit the Foxfire here, next to the Hope diamond,” said Sheth. “It means a great deal to me and my family.”

Nigel Ian Steward, managing director for Rio Tinto, which has a 60 percent interest in the Diavik Diamond Mine, noted that “diamonds like the Foxfire tend to stop us in our tracks.” The mine is scheduled to close in 2024, and Steward says the diamond “will be the finest legacy of a mine that once existed on the frozen edge of the world.”

Everyone involved in the gem’s discovery said the odds were unimaginably long that a diamond of Foxfire’s size would ever be found in the Diavik Mine. And if they did exist in its depths, the mine’s machinery, which is configured to sift out stones smaller than six carats while pulverizing the larger ones, would surely smash it to bits. 

A diamond of its weight would typically “break and crack from the force of the earth or the mining process,” said John King, GIA’s chief quality officer, who studied the diamond at GIA before it went on display. 

Deepak Sheth, owner of the Foxfire diamond, puts a case on his sparkling jewel

Post added that the museum was immediately intrigued by news of the diamond’s unearthing in 2015. “I had never imagined a diamond of this size coming out of America,” he said. The Hope diamond has always been a huge draw for the museum, and he hopes the Foxfire will have a similar effect on foot traffic

“Gems have this incredible draw for people,” he said. “We’re going to unveil the Foxfire in a room full of visitors. We like doing it that way. We get to share the excitement we feel with the public. It reminds all of us that work here why we do these things.”

(Photos courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History)

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