The science and natural history museums are some of my favorites.

When I was younger, my parents used to take my siblings and me to our local Natural Science Center every couple of months, and I couldn’t get enough of the fact that I was basically allowed to play while I was learning (and it goes without saying that I was also in it for the rock candy.)

So I was so happy when I recently heard the news that one fellow gem hound was donating a large sum of money to the Smithsonian exhibit that helps foster that exact feeling in others.

Last month, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History received its largest education donation yet: a $13 million gift from Coralyn Wright Whitney, a former college professor who earned her GG from GIA after she retired from academia, to support the museum’s science education center, Q?rius, pronounced “curious.”

The money not only will ensure that the exhibit is open and staffed seven days a week, it also will help provide daily education programming for school groups as well as the public. Q?rius has more than 6,000 physical and digital objects, research-grade scientific equipment and science-learning experiences, according to the museum.

A longtime gem enthusiast, this isn’t Whitney’s first time donating to the renowned museum—in 2009, she donated the 17-carat color-changing Whitney Alexandrite pictured below to the National Gem Collection.

051915_10X Whitney Alexandrite

Photo credit: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History/Chip Clark

She created the Coralyn Wright Whitney Endowment to support research and activities related to the National Gem Collection, and she and her husband also have been members of the Smithsonian Gemstone Collectors committee since it was founded in 2011.

Whitney was a research professor at the University of Washington in Seattle for years. After she retired, she reignited an early passion for gemstones by earning her graduate gemologist and accredited jewelry professional degrees from the GIA. She currently creates her own line of fine jewelry in 14- and 18-karat gold as well as platinum with colored diamonds or gemstones, a business in which her husband also plays a part.


I think everyone agrees on the importance of programs and activities that can get more kids interested in math and science. So, I’m happy to hear that a place that can do just that by putting it in front of them in a fun way is getting a little help to carry it into the future, especially if it could spark any kind of early interest with mineralogy and rocks.


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