The Foxfire Diamond, pictured here in the display case it will occupy for another month in Washington, D.C., is the largest known rough gem-quality diamond ever mined in North America. It was found at the Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada in August 2015. (Photo credit: Clay Blackmore)
As I write this, I am on an Amtrak train bouncing, tilting and clattering its way to Washington, D.C., where I have been invited to the inauguration as a personal guest of our 45th president, Donald J. Trump.

Just kidding.

I am actually going to speak at the D.C. chapter of the GIA alumni association tonight at a Holiday Inn in Arlington, Virginia, giving the PowerPoint version of the blog post I recently wrote on my retail prognostications for the year.

Since I am on my way to our nation’s capital, however, I feel like it’s a good time to catch readers up on my last trip to D.C. As they say, there’s no better time than the present to finish a story you should have written two months ago.

Back in November, I was invited to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History for a dinner welcoming the 187.63-carat Foxfire Diamond as a temporary resident of the museum’s Harry Winston Gallery, which is also home to the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond.

20170119 elephant shotThis after-museum-hours photograph shot by the author shows an African bush elephant on display in the Smithsonian’s first-floor rotunda. The Harry Winston Gallery, which houses the Hope Diamond and now the Foxfire, is on the second floor. (Photo credit: Michelle Graff)
Discovered at Canada’s Diavik Diamond Mine in August 2015, the Foxfire is the biggest diamond ever known to be found in North America.

Rio Tinto, which owns a 60 percent stake in Diavik, had the diamond in New York back in May and I got my little, grubby, never-polished fingers on it then. The following month, the stone went up for auction and Deepak Sheth of Amadena Investments/Excellent Facets Inc. placed the winning-but-never-disclosed bid for the diamond.

As I reported in November, Sheth has opted to keep the diamond in its rough state for now, lending it first to the Smithsonian and very kindly inviting me to the above-mentioned dinner welcoming the stone.

Held after hours in the gallery itself, the event presented the perfect opportunity for a private, albeit self-guided, tour of the two rooms that house the museum’s mineral collection.

It also gave me the chance to meet Sheth and Jeffrey Post, geologist, chair of the museum’s Mineral Sciences department and the curator-in-charge of the museum’s mineral collection.

20170119 Diavik FoxfireA shot of the Foxfire in its display case at the Smithsonian. The diamond is of unusual size and clarity for Diavik and took its name from the aboriginal description of the Northern Lights as resembling a “brush of undulating fox tails.”
Post spoke to the crowd on two separate occasions that evening, first addressing why he’s excited to have (and why it may be difficult to separate from) the diamond in the museum’s collection, and then talking a little bit more about the scientific properties of this special stone.

The Foxfire, he said, has strong fluorescence; he compared the shade of blue it turns when under UV light to blue glacier ice. It also exhibits bright-orange phosphorescence when the light is turned off that fades away slowly.

“We’ve never actually seen it stop. We just finally get tired and walk away from the diamond,” he joked.

Post--who, admittedly, has not seen a ton of diamonds in his lifetime but has examined some extraordinary stones--said he’s never seen a diamond that fluoresces so blue and then phosphoresces so orange. They are studying the Foxfire while they have it to get a better idea of what it means and “really, what’s going on inside this diamond.”

He also remarked on how this big rough diamond fits into the museum’s mission of educating and creating an experience for its visitors, saying, “How often do any of us get to see a large diamond that’s been found and mined anywhere in the world, and the public--never. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of our visitors.”

Listening back to my recording of that evening’s remarks, I was reminded of what Larry West told me when I was interviewing him about his company’s natural colored diamonds that are now on display in Los Angeles: The general public does not get to see these types of stones very often, which is something that you tend to forget when you work around jewelry every day.

Yes, people can walk through jewelry stores and see showcases filled with row after row of 1-carat diamonds but it’s not very often, if ever, that they get to see truly rare and wonderful stones, like West’s colored diamonds or a big diamonds in it rough form like the Foxfire.

The Foxfire Diamond will remain on display at the Smithsonian, housed in a glass case just feet from the Hope, until Feb 16. After that, Sheth plans to take it on a “world journey” to share it with other admirers.

We’ll let you know where it’s headed.

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