Smithsonian Receives Tashmarine and Tourmaline

Every piece in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s gem and mineral collection is either donated to the museum or acquired by trading donations. That’s why it’s fitting to recognize jewelers who donate important collections to the Smithsonian.

During the American Gem Trade Association’s Tucson GemFair, Kathe and Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House in Vancouver, Wash., presented some of the largest and finest tashmarines ever cut to the museum. Russell Feather, collection manager for the gem and mineral hall, accepted on behalf of the Smithsonian. Tashmarine is a unique green diopside found only in China, where it was discovered in 2001. (See “News from East Asia: Tashmarine,” JCK, September 2002, p. 38.)

The stones presented in Tucson, all weighing more than 35 cts. and cut by award-winning gem artist Richard Homer, will form the heart of the Smithsonian’s new tashmarine exhibit. When completed, the display will include several major mineral specimens; an extensive array of polished stones weighing from 5 cts. to 40 cts. (all precision-cut by Columbia Gem House in China, featuring its trademarked Radial Cut faceting); and an assemblage of finished jewelry pieces created by designer Kathe Mai.

Braunwart notes that the museum often has to wait until a gem has been popular for many years before donations come to the collection, and by that time most of the top-quality specimens have gone to private collections. Columbia Gem House has pledged that for every new gem it introduces, the company will make a significant donation.

Arthur Groom, an emerald wholesaler and New Jersey retail jeweler, recently donated an 8.73-ct. emerald from the Muzo mine in Colombia. The stone was moderately enhanced with Excel 1.52.

Groom also donated a 55-stone suite of fine-quality, unenhanced, natural-color tourmalines from Ogbomosho, Nigeria. The collection displays the wide range of colors found at this location, including pink, blue, green, bicolor, orange, and brown. Total weight of the tourmalines is 289 cts.