Nearly every woman loves jewelry, so if you want to see some serious "bling" on display, you'll want to visit the Gem Gallery in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The most anticipated item that I wanted to see was the Hope Diamond, the gorgeous 45.52 carat, walnut-sized, incredibly-rare, blue diamond. The mysterious history of this famous piece of jewelry includes 17th-century French royalty, 19th-century English royalty, Mr. Henry Phillip Hope (after whom the diamond is now named), jeweler Pierre Cartier, mining heiress and socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean and finally jeweler Harry Winston, who donated it to the Smithsonian in 1958.

Then there is the Hall sapphire and diamond necklace. Can you just imagine wearing this around your neck? Designed by Harry Winston, the necklace features 36 cushion-cut, sky-blue sapphires totaling 195 carats set in platinum. The sapphires are surrounded with 435 pear-shaped and round brilliant-cut diamonds, totaling another 83.75 carats. The necklace was donated to the museum by Mrs. Evelyn Annenberg Hall in 1979.
Like sapphires and diamonds? Well, how about the Bismarck sapphire necklace! The magnificent 98.57 carat Burmese sapphire is surrounded by baguette and round brilliant-cut diamonds and is accented with eight square-cut smaller sapphires. The sapphire hangs on a necklace with more diamonds that give the necklace a total of 312 diamonds. The necklace is named after Countess Mona von Bismarck, an American socialite who married German Count Eduard von Bismarck. She donated the necklace to the museum in 1967.

And we're not done with the incredible sapphires...and they just keep getting bigger. This 423 carat Logan Sapphire is about the size of an egg, making it the largest mounted gem in the museum! In its silver and gold brooch setting, the sapphire is surrounded by 20 round brilliant-cut diamonds totaling nearly 20 carats. The sapphire was cut from a crystal mined in Sri Lanka and is one of the world's largest faceted blue sapphires. Historically, some of the finest gems in the world have been mined in Sri Lanka (nicknamed the Gem Island) and Burma, as shown by this piece and the one shown above. The jewelry piece was donated to the museum in 1960 by Washington socialite, Mrs. John Logan.

Diamonds are a girl's best friend, and the necklace below was certainly a wonderful gift to Marie-Louise from her husband, Napoleon Bonaparte in 1811. The necklace consists of 234 total diamonds: 28 "old mine-cut" diamonds (old mine-cut was the precursor to the brilliant-cut) with a fringe of 9 pendeloques (five pear-shaped alternating with four oval-shaped stones) and 10 briolettes (elongated pear-shaped stones). Above each pear shape is mounted a small brilliant-cut diamond, while the four ovals are attached to motifs decorated with 23 smaller diamonds. Each of the 10 briolette mountings is set with 12 rose-cut diamonds. The necklace's total weight is estimated at 263 carats. After being handed down to several family members, the necklace was eventually sold to Harry Winston. Purchased by Marjorie Merriweather Post, she donated it to the museum in 1962.

Now I am not a fan of colored diamonds. I only like a normal, clear, white diamonds. However, you can help but drool over this Victoria-Transvaal Diamond Necklace. Discovered in a mine in Transvaal, South Africa, the 67.89 carat, champagne-colored, pear-shaped diamond has 116 facets. The yellow-gold necklace consists of 66 round brilliant-cut diamonds, fringed with 10 drop motifs in an angel-like design, each made from two marquise-cut diamonds (wings), a pear-shaped diamond (body) and a small round brilliant-cut diamond (head). Total weight of the 106 diamonds in the necklace is approximately 45 carats. It was donated to the museum in 1977 by Leonard and Victoria Wilkinson.

Marjorie Merriweather Post, the cereal heiress, also donated this art-deco designed emerald necklace to the museum. Made by Cartier in the 1920s from the finest Colombian emeralds, it features 24 baroque-cut emerald drops, each surmounted by a smaller emerald bead. The platinum necklace is set with pavé diamonds. 

Another spectacular piece is this emerald brooch. The 75.47 carat Colombian emerald was once the property of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who according to legend, wore it in his belt buckle. Purchased by Tiffany in 1911, and set into a tiara, it was eventually set into its current brooch setting in 1950. The beveled square-cut emerald is surrounded by 109 round brilliant-cut and 20 baguette-cut diamonds, totaling 13 carats. After purchasing it from Tiffany, Mrs. Janet Annenberg Hooker donated it to the museum in 1977.

This ruby and diamond bracelet contains 31 antique-cut Burmese rubies, totaling 60 carats. The rubies in this bracelet were taken from another piece of jewelry and reset by Harry Winston in 1950. The additional 107 pear, marquise and round brilliant-cut diamonds total 27 carats. The bracelet was donated anonymously in 1961.

The National Museum of Natural History is located on the National Mall at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue. It is directly across the mall from the Smithsonian Castle. The closest Metro stop is the Smithsonian stop.
  • Admission is always FREE.
  • Some exhibitions may have admission fees.
  • Open daily:10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • Closed on December 25.
For more information, click here.

All photos in this blog post were taken by my husband and me during our visit in September, 2013.


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