Rocks of Ages: The Many Facets of the ROM's Gemstone Collection

By Dunnell, Katherine | ROM Magazine, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Rocks of Ages: The Many Facets of the ROM's Gemstone Collection


Dunnell, Katherine, ROM Magazine


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When BIG opened at the ROM with bold and beautiful textile design, it inspired me to look at bold and beautiful objects behind the scenes in the gem and jewellery section. Inside the vaults of the Museum, this unique and dazzling collection is more than just eye candy. The strength of the gem collection is based on the breadth and well-documented localities of each of the specimens. While it is exciting and slightly overwhelming to see a drawer of row upon row of opals, for a researcher, it is equally exciting to hear that there is information on their locality and good data that enhances their research potential.

Though fashion drives part of the jewellery industry, ethics and knowing where your gemstone comes from are shaping the market. The current research trend within gemmology is to answer a very basic question: where is this gemstone from? And to answer it, researchers need a well-documented collection to serve as a baseline for their studies.

Research in gemstones is also happening at the ROM. Recently, a new non-destructive Raman spectrometer was purchased and installed to allow curators to look at species and varieties of gemstones in a way we have never been able to before at the ROM. Gemstones as well as inclusions within the stones can be identified, and a look at our current collection with this new technology will allow us to strengthen the information we have about each piece in the collection.

Coloured gemstones in engagement and wedding rings have been seen in the recent past with Prince William and Catherine, now The Duchess of Cambridge (blue sapphire and diamond), as well as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan (ruby and diamond). …

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